How to navigate through the most sinful delights with your family in tow
A chocolate tour sans Switzerland? Surely, that’s blasphemy of some sort. While Lindt sticks to basics and offers a candy shop of delights (quite literally) in Kilchberg, near Zurich, Nestle takes it a notch further and takes visitors on a factory tour a la Willy Wonka. The charm factor is dialled up high if you take the 1915 Belle Epoque Pullman car, or the Swiss Chocolate Train, a luxury ride that takes you to Nestlé's Maison Cailler factory. Drop by for chocolate tastings at Confiserie Poyet in Vevey, where milk chocolate was born.
The drink to start off your deliciously decadent journey in Italy should be the thick, dark, slightly bitter hot chocolate at Turin called cioccolato caldo. Be prepared for gargantuan queues for the Italy’s chocolate capital city speciality, bicerin, an espresso and hot chocolate layered drink, and giandujotto, a chocolate hazelnut candy. February also hosts the annual chocolate festival Cioccola-Tò. Move to Florence and pick up souvenirs from the Vestri boutique. The chocolate bar at Golden Tower homes, a historical space you can spend the night at, serves you a massive variety of chocolate.
There are certain countries where you might need a lifetime to indulge in chocolate offerings. France, with its annual festival La Salon du Chocolat, innumerable charming patisseries, is one of them. You can attend workshops with master chocolatiers (Gerard Mulot's workshop with Meeting the French), go on chocolate walks, and visit a museum – Planete Musée du Chocolat at Biarritz, where an Aztec god takes you through 3,000 years of chocolate.
It’s entirely possible you might leave England a little sick of chocolate. Home to Bournville, and of course Cadbury, the country is not known for excesses, but apparently forgot that when it came to celebrating chocolate. There’s a chocolate theme park – Cadbury World – where Bournville is freely distributed with rides, a Chocolate Hotel (Bournemouth) complete with chocolate making and tasting classes, and chocolate walks that take you past the dukes, duchess’ and all the scandal and politics that accompanied chocolate’s first appearance on the island. Of course, there are spicy tidbits of chocolate along the way.
For a country that produces over 1,72,000 tons of chocolate a year and has more than 2,000 chocolate shops across the country, it’s no surprise that the chocolate tourism itinerary here is a bit vast. You can choose from a variety of chocolate walks, tastings and museum visits and even partake in a hot chocolate tasting ceremony just like a Japanese tea ceremony (De Proeverie Tea Room in Eupen). Zaabär throws in spices, fruit and cereal into the mix you create in their workshops, and Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat takes you through an exciting journey of the creation of these masterpieces. Both are in Brussels.
Only in Spain, where the conquistadors first brought chocolate to the continent, will there be club nights dedicated and designed around chocolate. Chocolaterías or Churrerías come alive between the hours of 4am and breakfast time to feed late night revellers the deep-fried goodness of a churro. The savoury fried dough is had dipped in thick bittersweet cups of hot chocolate. The Chocolatería San Ginés on Pasadizo San Ginés in Madrid is open all night. For a more historical ride, but no less heady, get to the Museu de la Xocolata, where even your tickets are edible and you can paint with chocolate.
There are chocolate volcanoes (the SchokoCafé at the Rausch SchokoLand Museum in Peine) to grapple with here, as well as a chocolate room (the Schokoladenzimmer at the Chocolate Museum in Halle) with elaborate room decor made entirely of chocolate. Adults can sign up for a wine and chocolate tasting from five vineyards across Heidelberg and chocolate from the house of Domori. The three-metre tall chocolate fountain at the Imfhoff-Stollwerck Schokoladenmuseum in Cologne (where you can dip waffles into), fights for attention with the exhibit Cult Chocolate that showcases the greatest productions of chocolate to date.
This is not your average chocolate tourism destination of museums. Instead, as suspected, New York offers up a buffet of chocolate-y surprises, albeit all that include tucking in. The retro-fitted über famous Magnolia Bakery might have pushed the red velvet cupcake on to our plates, but you have to try their German chocolate cake to understand the true value of a perfectly baked indulgence. The tipple of choice must be the chocolate stout at Max Brenner, although the chocolate truffle martini and the ‘hug mug’ hot chocolate will vie for the spot with adequate qualifications.
Consider the fact that Mexico might well be the birthplace of chocolate, especially since the word itself is derived from the Mayan xocoatl. However, remember, it was the Europeans who added sugar to it, and until then, its raw form was used as thick bitter drinks and sauces to accompany savoury main courses. The Mexican hot chocolate therefore is a dark and spicy concoction, flavoured with chillies. The La Cocina de Oaxaca is a culinary tour themed around Mexican xocoatl and chocolate tours here also include visits to organic cacao plantations.
The tourism ministry of Peru expects more than 1.2 million chocolate loving visitors by 2016 – just to give you an idea why it’s such an ‘it’ destination on the list. A touristic cacao route is being planned to take them through an exhaustive and exciting journey of Peruvian chocolate. When there are delights like iced cacao liqueur, cacao tea, and an ‘Argentinean submarine (chocolate lollipop dipped into steamed milk) you can rest assured there will be waiting lists here. The latter are the perks of a visit to the Choco Museo in Lima, which also teaches you how to make a Mayan hot chocolate.