It has been the busiest week of the year for artisan chocolatiers Jim and Mary Healy at the Chocolate Garden of Ireland in County Carlow.
It is estimated that Irish children will eat around 5 million Easter eggs this weekend, and plenty of adults will indulge too.
The chocolate factory, nestled in the rolling hills outside Tullow, will contribute tens of thousands of eggs, bunnies, ducks, and even hurleys and sliotars, to the chocolate supply.
The business originally opened 18 years ago in Baltinglass, County Wicklow, where the couple started making waffle biscuits. When they added chocolate to the recipe, their love of chocolate bloomed into the Chocolate Garden of Ireland, and the family moved home to Carlow.
It grew into a thriving artisan chocolate-making business, employing 25 people locally. It went on to win awards – most deservedly for their dark chocolate salted caramel.
Not content to sit on their laurels in their chocolate garden, Jim and Mary diversified and introduced chocolate workshops. They have proved a huge hit.
"There is a notion that it's only for kids but we have actually had people up to 95 years of age," Jim Healy said. "Everyone from school children to hen parties, from corporate groups to active-retirement groups."
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There is a four month run-in to Christmas, the second busiest time of the year for the company. Easter is more intensive. There is a 2 month window to produce thousands of chocolate eggs.
This year, they received an order for a 6.5 kilo ruby chocolate egg for a wedding. Instead of a cake, the bride and groom opted for a giant egg, surrounded by little eggs, to be the centerpiece of their Easter nuptials.
The Chocolate Garden introduced ruby chocolate to their range just last year. "Ruby is a new type of chocolate launched only last year," Mary Healy explained, "and we are the first artisan chocolatier in Ireland to have it. It's made from the ruby cocoa bean which is a particular variety, and the cocoa is fermented and roasted in a particular way which arrives with pink cocoa instead of brown."
The business has seen huge growth in online orders, and updating their social media accounts is a daily job that pays dividends. "The number of orders that we are getting in online is collossal. People can order their very own personalised Easter egg. We are seeing 50% plus growth every year in online orders."
The couple enjoy seeing the delight their chocolate brings to their customers.
It is also a fun place to work. Manager at the Chocolate Garden is Janet Hutton, from Ballyconnell. "It's a happy place to work. Happy for me and happy for my children. They love the idea of me working with chocolate because we get to bring home some nice treats. It's a lovely family run business."