Taupiri: The sweet life

By Danielle Wright

Danielle Wright finds sweet treats at an old dairy factory in the Waikato.
Twisting sugar to make lollipops at the Candylands factory near Gordonton.
Twisting sugar to make lollipops at the Candylands factory near Gordonton.

There's always a place you remember from childhood where you wanted your parents to stop on long drives.

Candyland is my children's place and whenever we drive past they ask if they can go in. This time we decided to stop.

After admiring a mural filled with dancing jellybeans, we're swallowed up into the Candyland shop through a doorway surrounded by giant painted teeth.

Inside are rows and rows of every kind of lolly, licorice and lollipop. Sweets I hadn't seen before, such as Pretzel M&Ms, sit next to old favourites that include jelly snakes and milk bottles.

There's even - sign of the times - a small sugar-free aisle, many types of fudge, as well as a cafe serving tea "in mama's best teacups", with a Belgian chocolate fondue and chilli pepper hot chocolate also available.

There's a pin-up board near the entrance filled with thank you notes from schools, families who've celebrated a birthday here and even one couple who took their wedding photos out the front.

Despite the love from the locals, it seems a little run down, but the kids don't seem to notice as we're ushered towards the back of the room - past a cut-out of a bungee-jumping smartie - and enter the Candyland show.

The first lesson of the day is chocolate-making.

The chocolate panning room is filled with machinery, including giant silver cylinders turning like concrete mixers. An employee dressed in pink and wearing fairy wings comes out and takes us through the process.

Efron, a boy in the audience, is chosen as her helper. "Why is his name F-word?" asks a girl behind us as he drizzles chocolate over eskimo marshmallows, while a toddler in the front row tries to grab everyone's lollipop stick. "We put sweets, or sometimes kids who don't behave themselves, into the chocolate coating machine," says the fairy tutor, which settles the children down a little.

A pastel-coloured giant gnome watches as we all shout a magic word at the cooling tunnel to make the chocolate hurry up and set. Once it has, we head past a giant lollipop - once the world's biggest - and meet candymaker Aimy, who also chooses Efron as the helper.

She says Candyland uses natural flavours and colours, such as beetroot juice.

It looks like mouldable glass as she picks it up, hands inside thick heat-resistant gloves.

"In the movies, when you see someone being hit over the head with a bottle, this is the stuff they use," Aimy says as she takes the hot goo to a machine that churns it around until it starts to look like chewed-up bubblegum.

Candyland is situated at a former cheese factory in the Waikato countryside, naturally beside the candymaker is a soft-toy cow wearing red lipstick and a pearl necklace to remind us of the region's dairy history.

Helper Efron, who has been made to wear a colourful jester's hat, offers us strips of warm striped candy, which we twist and shape into lollipops before heading into the museum, passing on the way a cut-out of a bungy-jumping Smartie sweet.

The museum is filled with vintage machinery, old Nestle posters and biscuit tins -- one of which has a grumpy-looking Winston Churchill painted on the front as if he is saying "hands off".

There's also a mural documenting the history of confectionery, starting back in 2000BC with the Egyptians, who made candy to offer to the gods and to give to priests and royalty. As I linger in the museum, my kids have already raced back to the shop to choose the sweets they want for the trip home.

It seems a bit of a dubious experiment to see how long the kids last in the back seat on the long drive home with all that sugar, but they're so busy trying them all out it's the quietest, sweetest, road trip ever.

A SWEET IDEA

Candyland is at 75 Henry Rd in Taupiri. Candymaking shows are on Saturdays and Sundays (daily during school holidays) at 10.30am and 1pm; the shop is open from 10am to 5pm.

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