Hand-made goodness at the Zuckerlwerkstatt
Yesterday I got to join an instameet, or let´s call it an instatreat, with Instagramers Austria to a very special little candy shop in the heart of Vienna: die Zuckerlwerkstatt. I don´t normally talk about shops on this blog, but I think this one definitely qualifies as Vienna culture.
Christian and Maria Mayer (a professional singer; and a law expert) have poured all their passion into learning how to make candy from scratch, by hand, using high quality natural ingredients. You just have to look at the beautiful display of mouth-watering colourful assortment of candy in the shop window to know they succeeded. (I saw many a passer-by stop for a second wistful look while we were privileged to be INSIDE behind closed doors.)
At the beginning of October 2013, a magical world of creative sweets opened its doors in the high-rise at Herrengasse 6-8. Chris and his team make everything by hand, and the different designs and flavors are really something to gawk at. The making of candy by hand is a centuries old Viennese tradition that had been all but lost, until the Zuckerlwerkstatt came along. Up until the 1960s, candymaker was a profession that you could learn through a formal apprenticeship. Not so today – but at the Zuckerlwerkstatt the old tradition of sweet-making by hand is being revived.
The art of candy making
You will find no industrial mass production machinery here. This type of hand-manufacturing technology is really an art, requiring patience, attention to detail, and – as a matter of fact – quite a bit of physical strength to. We were able to witness the strenuous process of pouring melting sugar onto flats, spreading it, cutting it, kneading it, pulling it, rolling it out, turning it into little mikado like sticks, and finally chopping it into candy bits. Wow, that is a lot of work!
(If you are reading this on a computer you can watch a slide show of the process.)
In the end, you are left with a truly unique product that gives pleasure, not just because it is delicious, but also because you know what it has taken to make it. Because the bagging of the candy is quite time-consuming, that is done at a separate facility in the 4th district, also by hand.
While we were admiring Chris and Kati at work, outside behind the closed door a very adamant 3-year old started crying for a lollipop. Well, she succeeded, Chris actually gave her one as a gift – so sweet, literally!
An old imperial craft revived
During Vienna´s imperial days, it was known among other things for its sweet manufacturers. One of them was the Heller family, which founded a sweet manufacture in 1891. The Heller manufacture was once a prestigious “K. u. K. Hoflieferant” and a “chamber supplier”, a supplier to the private quarters of the emperor. In 1971, the traditional Viennese company in Favoriten was shut down in the course of a merger. Fritz Heller was the last member of the family that ran the sweet factory, and when he learned of Chris Mayer´s endeavor he decided to bring him 120-year-old confectionery catalogs. Chris was enthusiastic, and the Zuckerlwerkstatt now reproduces some of the old Heller designs. Creativity knows no bounds here – companies can even have their logos turned into candy.
So, after seeing those rainbow-coloured lollipos, forgive me if I just have to quote some song lyrics, because in this case they really are true:
Who can take a rainbow
Wrap it in a sigh
Soak it in the sun and make a groovy lemon pie
The Candy Man
The Candy Man can
The Candy Man can
‘Cause he mixes it with love
And makes the world taste good
Songwriters: Daniel Patrice Thomas / Edward Theodore Riley / Keith D. Sweat / Tarvares Jevon Webster
By the way, if you visit their website, you can not only buy the sweets in the webshop, but you can also watch snippets of the candy manufacturing process, but I really recommend you go see for yourself. At the shop in Herrengasse, you can admire the making of delicious treats three times a day (a blackboard outside the shop tells you the cooking times).
Information sources: Christian Mayer, Zuckerlwerkstatt website, and media reports