• Saturday, April 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

10 must-visit chocolate destinations

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Chocolate holds a special place in the hearts of people around the world, originating from ancient Mesoamerica, present day Mexico 4,000 years ago. The Olmec, one of the earliest civilizations in Latin America, were the first to turn the cacao plant into chocolate.

Chocolate began to gain widespread popularity in the 1500s when it started spreading to Europe and beyond. Today chocolate is more than a sweet indulgence, it’s a global culture that goes beyond age.

For many, chocolate isn’t just a treat, it’s a passion. Chocolate lovers are willing to travel far and wide to experience the diverse flavors and craftsmanship of chocolates from different parts of the world. From the smooth texture of Swiss milky chocolate to the flavors of Ecuadorian chocolate, each country brings its own unique twist to this confection. And while some may argue over their favorite type of chocolate, its universal appeal is undeniable.

Whether enjoyed in the form of a decadent cake, a scoop of creamy ice cream, or a rich and satisfying bar, chocolate’s universal appeal brings joy to people everywhere.

Here are 10 of the world’s top chocolate destinations, where you can enjoy the best chocolates.

Belgium

Known as the chocolate capital of the world, Belgium has a long tradition of making smooth and fancy chocolate with crisp shell which gives way to a smooth interior, filled with a creamy ganache or praline. With over 2,000 chocolatiers scattered throughout the country, Belgium’s chocolate scene is vibrant. What makes Belgian chocolate unique is that it is only cooled at the end of the production process, which allows it to preserve its aroma. Additionally, Belgian chocolate is almost entirely handcrafted, adding to its allure and quality. These two factors make Belgian chocolate a little more expensive.

The Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat (Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate), offers a fascinating journey through the history and development of chocolate, giving you the opportunity to learn about the Belgian chocolate making process.

Switzerland

Despite Switzerland’s climate being unsuitable for cacao cultivation, the country has overcome this obstacle to become aan interesting destination for chocolate lovers, who are not just looking to satisfy their palate but also looking to satisfy their curious minds. The famous Chocolate Train journey, a favorite among tourists during the summer months, takes visitors on a round-trip adventure from Montreux to Gruyeres and back. Along the way, travelers make a stop at the Cailler-Nestle Chocolate Factory in Broc. Here, they delve into the history of chocolate, witness the production process firsthand, and, of course, indulge in tasting chocolates. While the Chocolate Train operates only from June to October each year, chocolate lovers can still visit the factory independently to satisfy their cravings and get chocolates in bulk for affordable prices.

Switzerland’s chocolate scene extends beyond factory tours to include renowned chocolatiers like Teuscher, Nestle, and Lindt. Lindt, in particular, stands out as a globally recognized Swiss chocolate brand, enjoyed by chocolate lovers worldwide.

According to WorldStrides, the average Swiss person consumes over ten kilos of chocolate annually,

Ecuador

Ecuador’s commitment to chocolate excellence is evident in its status as a top producer of ‘Fine Aroma’ cacao beans, which only 5% of the world has earned. Ecuador produces 63% of the world’s supply. While previously focused on cacao exports, Ecuador has increasingly ventured into making its own chocolate, with brands like Paraci beating its European competitors to grab the title of the world’s best chocolate.

In Ecuador’s capital city of Quito, as well as in Mindo, a jungle town, visitors can visit and explore chocolate factories. The western region of Ecuador is well known for its cacao plantations, contributing to the country’s thriving chocolate industry. Ecuador has more than ten popular chocolatiers, chocolate museums and boutiques that allows visitors to indulge in tasting chocolates.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom owes much of its chocolate reputation to Cadbury, with favorites like the Creme Egg enjoying widespread popularity worldwide.

Cadbury, a household name worldwide, originated in the United Kingdom in the 1820s, initially selling tea, coffee, and drinking chocolate. The brand gained royal recognition in the 1850s when the Cadbury brothers supplied chocolate to Queen Victoria. In 1905, Cadbury introduced the Dairy Milk chocolate, renowned for its high milk content. While Cadbury Eggs and Dairy Milk bars are available globally, many agree they taste best enjoyed on a leisurely stroll along a cobblestone street in the U.K.

Cadbury’s milk chocolate luxury is celebrated by fans globally, especially during Easter, as evidenced by the beloved Cadbury Bunny commercials.

Italy

Italy’s cultural and culinary richness extends to its chocolate scene, with many of the world’s top chocolate brands originating from the country. Italian chocolates are renowned for their sharpness, texture, and superior quality, making them a favorite among chocolate lovers.

Amadei, the most popular chocolate producer in Italy, stands out for sourcing cocoa directly from growers, ensuring the highest quality ingredients and production standards. Italians also excel at incorporating chocolate into their pastries, delighting those with a sweet tooth with every bite.

France

With brands like Valrhona and Michel Cluizel leading the way, chocolate makers in France have honed their craft over centuries. Known for its superior quality, French chocolate undergoes rigorous checks and adheres to stringent standards, ensuring a truly exceptional chocolate experience.

Visitors can explore local shops to discover a wide range of chocolate products. The chocolatiers in France are known for their friendly and hospitable nature, often providing insights into their creations and occasionally allowing visitors to glimpse into their kitchens.

In addition to classic chocolate bars, France offers tasty chocolate pastries and desserts. France is also known for the infamous French truffle.

United States

One distinctive feature of American chocolate is its frequent use of peanuts and almonds. While there are numerous chocolate shops across the country, Hershey’s stands out as the largest producer of candy in the UnitedStates.

Visitors flock to Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, for thrilling rides and an abundance of chocolate and confections.
However, while this characteristic has put the US on the chocolate map, it presents challenges for individuals with peanut allergies who may struggle to find safe chocolate products in stores.

Germany

With a chocolate-making history dating back to the 19th century, Germany has earned a reputation for excellence. Brands like Ritter Sport, Milka, and Hachez are celebrated for their high-quality chocolate enjoyed by a global audience. In Waldenbuch, visitors can explore the Ritter Sport factory and megastore, where they can taste and buy products at a discounted price. Despite being Swiss, Milka is proudly made in Germany. German chocolate producers prioritize both tradition and innovation, securing their place among the world’s top chocolate makers.

Germany has the second-highest chocolate consumption globally, following Switzerland.

Mexico

Mexico, the birthplace of chocolate, has a rich history dating back over 4,000 years when cacao plants were first discovered by the Olmecs. Today, Mexican chocolate is known for its unique blend of coarsely ground cacao, sugar, and cinnamon, often infused with flavors like chiles and nuts. Unlike mass-produced chocolates, Mexican chocolate is categorized by its sugar content rather than milk or dark distinctions. It’s commonly used in hot chocolate and mole recipes, offering a distinctively rich flavor.

Visitors can explore the Mayan Cacao Company or the Ah Cacao Chocolate Factory to select from a wide variety of chocolate.

Ivory Coast

While Ecuador is well known for its quality cacao, Ivory Coast leads in the production and supply of cacao to chocolate giants like Cadbury, Hershey’s, and Nestle. The Ivorian economy heavily relies on cacao exports, accounting for 40% of its income.

Similar to Ecuador, Ivory Coast has entered the chocolate-making industry, with brands like Instant Chocolat.

Instant Chocolat, founded in 2015, has seen remarkable success, offering a range of chocolate products appreciated by both local and international markets, including corporate clients like Air France and Citibank