Chocolate capitals of the world
A chocolate-covered weekend is looming, my friends. The holiday that makes Cadbury moguls’ eyes turn into giant dollar signs and kids run rampant on sugar-highs. That’s not to discount the religious significance of the holiday by any means. Easter eggs have been an important part of the holiday since way back when, but along the line some mastermind decided egg-shaped chocolates were more of a crowd-pleaser than delicately painted duck eggs. God bless ‘em. Let’s ignore the fact that the holiday mascot is a strange rabbit/chicken hybrid and focus on what is really significant here: chocolate. And lots of it. If you’re a chocoholic in denial, the first step is admitting it. The second step is to make the pilgrimage to these cocoa-fuelled capitals.
It’s probably not fair to the other destinations to kick things off with Belgium. Producing over 172,000 tonnes of chocolate every year (enough to make 43,000 solid chocolate elephants) with more than 2,000 dedicated chocolateries across the country, Belgian chocolatiers take their craft very seriously. Capital city Brussels is a melting pot of culture, cuisine and, most importantly, chocolate. It’s like one great, big delicious fondue. If the canals suddenly turned velvety brown and flowed with Guylian’s shell-shaped creations you probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid. It would just feel right. Sample artisan chocolate bars, truffles and pralines with more than a century of status behind them, ranging from 30% to 85% in purity.
Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA
Dubbed the Sweetest Place on Earth and Chocolatetown USA, Hershey is the place where chocolate dreams come true. In World War II more than a billion ration chocolate bars were produced for the US troops by Hershey’s. A BILLION. Today, Hershey’s is much more than your run-of-the-mill candy bar company. Hershey’s Chocolate World theme park is as close to Homer Simpson’s imaginary chocolate dreamland as you’re going to get.
Embark on a tasting adventure, snack on your very own chocolate creation and personalise a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar with a selfie. If you have an American holiday on the cards, consider a day-trip from New York City to be covered in Hershey’s Kisses and smattered with Reese’s Pieces.
While he was busy conquering and colonising, Christopher Columbus came across the cacao tree in Central America and was struck by how the natives held the cacao bean in such high esteem. The beans made their way back to Europe and the Spanish are believed to be the first lucky buggers to taste its sweet heritage in the New World. Although, back then it was awfully bitter and unrefined. Among Barcelona’s greatest allures are churros (long fried doughnuts smothered with molten chocolate) and the Museu de la Xocolata, the Chocolate Museum, where you can trace the origins of chocolate, paint with chocolate and learn the art of combining wine and chocolate. Warning: high cocoa content.
In a little pocket of Birmingham is the village of Bournville, a magical place where the houses are arranged oh-so neatly and the Cadbury brand was born. Without shattering the illusion too much, the story goes as follows: grocer John Cadbury began making his own drinking chocolate using a pestle and mortar and business was booming. He opened a factory to up the ante and by the mid-1800s was producing 11 types of cocoa. The humble grocery store is no more but the epic Cadbury World stands testament to Cadbury’s brilliance. On a topical note, Cadbury’s first Easter Egg hatched in 1875, made with dark chocolate and filled with sugar-coated chocolate drops. Excuse me while I control my saliva.
Have you ever looked at the mountain on a Toblerone bar? It’s the Matterhorn, the enormous peak on the border of Italy and Switzerland. The more you know! Stroll the streets of Zurich, breathe in the crisp alpine air and you might get a whiff of roasting cocoa beans from the chocolate factories that surround. The Swiss consume more chocolate per person than anyone else and it’s not surprising with chocolatiers like Lindt, Sprungli and Cailler-Nestle at their doorstep. If you’re not up for a factory tour or a ride on the Swiss Chocolate Train, big game players also have outposts in the heart of town so you can cafe-hop, have a nosh, stick your head in a chocolate fountain (see above) and roll home in your chocolate coma.