On a chocolate trip…

On a chocolate trip…

Delicious and dark, white and creamy, chocolate is one treat no one can refuse. On the occasion of World Chocolate Day tomorrow, Rashmi Gopal Rao suggests a few chocolate-themed destinations

Happy World Chocolate Day

Often referred to as the ‘food of the gods’, the history of chocolates that dates back thousands of years shows that it was first discovered by the Mesoamericans who were the first cultivators of the cacao plants (Theobroma cacao), a species native to the tropical region of the Americas. Back then, the beans were ground after roasting and fermenting, and then mixed with various other components like honey, water, chilli and vanilla to form a drink that was then consumed.

This special fermented drink was considered as an elixir by the Maya Indians and the Aztecs and hence was highly valued both as a commodity and a currency. Since then, chocolate and its consumption has spread all over the world, changing form from a bitter beverage to a universally loved edible sweet treat, and morphing into a global industry whose value has been pegged to over USD 103 billion! According to a research report released by Zion Market Research, the global chocolate market is expected to cross USD 161.56 billion by 2024.

As the popular saying goes, “Love makes the world go round, but chocolate makes the trip worthwhile!” So, here are some unique chocolate-themed trips for you:

Hershey’s Chocolate World, Pennsylvania

Hershey's Chocolate World, Pennsylvania
Hershey's Chocolate World, Pennsylvania

For those of you who are used to having your daily dose of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup to create endless cups of chocolate milk and chocolate sundaes, you could not have asked for a more exciting place to spend your day. Located in Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA, Chocolate World is a popular attraction of The Hershey Company. Also called Hershey’s, the company was started by Milton S Hershey and is one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world.

Dubbed rightly as the ‘sweetest place on earth’, Hershey’s Chocolate World is the perfect place to indulge the child in you. Take a fun ride with your children and follow the exciting journey of ‘bean to bar’, a great way to witness how the delectable bars at Hershey are manufactured. Do not miss savouring the free sample at the end of this ride. There are several other enjoyable activities to choose from, like creating your own chocolate bar, chocolate sampling sessions, and catching a 4D chocolate movie.

You can also take a ride on a vintage trolley with singing conductors into the town of Hershey where you can learn all about the history and development of the factory township. End the day by shopping at the large Hershey’s outlet where you can stock up on your favourite Kisses, Nuggets and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. From balls to pillows to toys, everything in the store is chocolate-themed!

Cadbury World, Bournville

Few childhood memories are more pleasant than those of the few precious Cadbury Fruit and Nut bars you earned as a gift after faring well in your exams or the trademark purple Cadbury wrappers that you carefully preserved by pressing them between the pages of your school book. Cadbury chocolates are sure an intrinsic part of many a happy and carefree childhood. So, if you are in the UK, do not miss visiting Cadbury World in Bournville, just about 10 km from the bustling city of Birmingham. A visit that will certainly take you on a nostalgic journey conjuring joyful memories on the way.

A display in Cadbury World, Bournville

Bournville is a quaint town with splashes of the Cadbury purple found in abundance on the street signs, railings, lamp posts and the like. The place is a self-guided tour where you can get an insight into the genesis of the legendary brand apart from learning all about the process of chocolate making. From viewing the first Cadbury products to travelling back in time to the Victorian Bull Street, Cadbury World has it all. The incredibly adorable ‘Cadabara’ ride created amidst a fairy tale set up is sure to be a favourite with kids. From chocolate tasting to writing your name in chocolate to drinking liquid chocolate, and indulging in a 4D chocolate experience, there are a lot of activities you can do.

Watching expert chocolatiers create exclusive handmade items like tea sets and shoes crafted in chocolate is truly fascinating. You can also gift yourself a personalised chocolate plaque as a perfect souvenir. Finish your day with shopping at the world’s biggest Cadbury shop where you can find special offers and bargains apart from rare Cadbury souvenirs.

Mapro Garden, Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar Road

If you are one of the innumerable fans of the colourful, gooey and fruity ‘Faleros’ from the house of Mapro, visit the Mapro Food Park in Mahabaleshwar for a fun-filled day amidst strawberries, chocolates and ice cream. Short for Mahabaleshwar Products, Mapro has been manufacturing jams, beverages, crushes and squashes, all of which are fruit-based since 1959. Located in Gureghar on Panchgani - Mahabaleswar Road, Mapro Garden is an initiative of Mapro that is open to visitors.

The place with verdant gardens all around makes for an ideal excursion with family and friends. When here, you can explore the strawberry farm, visit the small chocolate factory, and even watch the production of the pulpy fruit chews, aka Falero, apart from viewing the journey of Mapro. There is a dedicated play area for children and a restaurant that serves some wonderful fare, including strawberry pizzas, chocolate strawberries, and even strawberry bhel! Most of the food served is organic. You can walk into the Mapro Retail Outlet and stock up on your quota of jams and syrups after a fulfilling tasting session.

Zurich, immersive chocolate experiences

There is no denying the fact that Switzerland and chocolate are literally a match made in heaven. Zurich is one of those perfect places where the country’s ‘chocolate legacy’ comes alive in the form of several niche chocolate brands, artisanal chocolates and gourmet chocolate stores. While you can sign up from several of the chocolate tours that are available, a walk along the city’s downtown is a great idea to make way for some absolutely heavenly experiences.

Discover the delicious world of Confiserie Sprüngli by sampling their legendary ‘luxemburgerli’. These ‘melt in your mouth’ super colourful, light, airy little macaroons come in flavours as diverse as champagne gold, citron and caramel fleur de sel. A creation that was born 60 years ago, the popularity of luxemburgerli remains unabated. Apart from this, Sprüngli is known for their pralines, truffles and crispy-light flûtes that are handmade and prepared fresh every day.

Max Chocolates, Zurich
Max Chocolates, Zurich

Apart from known brands, there are others like Oro de Cacao who manufacture chocolate using a patented ‘cold extraction’ process where cocoa beans are not subjected to roasting on high temperatures. This helps retain the inherent flavours of the bean and the minimal addition of sweeteners and non-cocoa flavouring agents. Pure magic indeed! Max Chocolatier is yet another native brand who are champions of fair and ethical trade practices. With niche flavours like rosehip and hibiscus tea, tangerine and saffron, Max’s creations are not only completely natural and handmade but are also rotated by the season.

Happy World Chocolate Day!