Written by The Leap on 14 / 04 / 2015
Gap Year Advice
Chocolate: a food that’s consumed by people of all ages and nationalities, the reason for which is simple - it’s damn delicious. And whereas many travellers focus on history, culture, adventure or natural wonders, others follow their sweet tooth and venture to locations that are renowned for producing excellent chocolate.
If you’re one of these people, then you’re in luck! Chocolate tourism is booming, with chocolate tours, factories and museums devoted to the scrumptious substance all across the globe. Below I’ve listed five must-see locations for chocoholics, where you can taste the world’s best chocolate and learn all about it.
Most people associate travel to Switzerland with chocolate (along with mountains and cheese) so it probably comes as no surprise that this is first on the list. Swiss chocolate can be purchased all over the country, but if you want to experience it in a more impactful way, i.e. you want to do more than just grab the nearest bar off the shelf in the kiosk, then you should visit a chocolate factory.
One of the best has to be Maison Cailler in the village of Broc, which is also the oldest in the country and provides chocolate workshops for groups, as well as tours. After seeing how the famed chocolate is produced and trying your hand at making some yourself, you’ll get the chance to treat your senses with a generous sampling in the factory’s tasting room.
Another option is Blondel in Lausanne, a small chocolatier with an extra large amount of chocolate; one wall is lined with various flavors of chocolate barks, while the other showcases classic dipped chocolates and candied fruits, which can be dipped in to bowls of melted chocolate- mmm!
In Ecuador, chocolate tourism is a recent phenomenon, despite the fact it’s been the world’s leading exporter of ‘top-quality chocolate’ (i.e. chocolate containing over 70% cacao) for years. Most visitors to the country arrive in Quito, where you can eat your heart out at the glam Kallari Chocolate, a café that serves own-brand chocolate bars, the proceeds of which benefit the farmers in the Napo province, who produce the cacao for them.
If you’re arriving in Guayaquil instead, be sure to visit La Pepa de Oro, where you’ll find heavenly hot chocolates that come in three separate flavours: cinnamon, hazelnut and almond. Travel roughly 300km hours north and you’ll land in the equatorial tropics, home to the country’s last remaining indigenous Tsáchila tribes, who rely on harvesting cacao in order to survive.
Take part in The Leap’s 10-week volunteering placement in Ecuador and you can live amongst these tribesmen, helping to plant and manage their cacao plantation to improve productivity and revenue. For more information, visit our website.
Did you know that Hawaii is the only place in the United States where cacao can be grown? For that reason, the place is inundated with American and foreign tourists alike looking to see its small farms and sample the delicious chocolate produced there. One of the best places to visit is the island of Kauai, where you’ll find trees bearing Hawaiian chocolate, as well as sugar and vanilla.
I’d recommend taking the Garden Island Chocolate Farm Tour, a three-hour guided educational adventure, where you’ll learn all about the cacao tree and see how chocolate is made from cacao pods. You’ll also be taught about permaculture, sustainable organic farming and exotic fruits.
Plus you’ll get to partake in an all-you-can-eat chocolate tasting with over 20 types of chocolates, such as orange, espresso cream, ginger, toasted coconut and sea salt. Advanced reservations are required, so be sure to book ahead if you’re planning on doing this tour.
The ancient Mesoamericans were the world’s first chocolatiers and Mexico has continued to produce chocolate ever since. Mexican chocolate has a rich and distinctive flavor, which comes in all sorts of forms, from flat disks and bars, to powders and syrups. In the city of Oaxaca, residents embrace chocolate as part of their culture and there are several chocolate producers lining the streets, offering samples to passerby.
You’ll find the greatest selection on the street 20 de Noviembre, where barrels of cocoa beans sit in almost every doorway and vendors peddling handmade chocolate treats pace up and down. Interestingly, a lot of Oaxaca’s chocolate is made the old-fashioned way, either by hand or using electric grinders, which somehow makes it taste even better.
Be sure to visit legendary local factory Mayordomo, which produces chocolate for drinking and baking, as well as a famous mole sauce.
Belgium is a chocoholic’s paradise, boasting 12 chocolate factories, 16 chocolate museums and more than 2,100 chocolate shops. Belgian chocolate shops take their craft seriously and, once you witness the passion that goes in to the creation of these sweet treats, you’ll see why chocolate has become a national symbol of love.
Its capital, Brussels, is home to two of the biggest chocolate companies in the world – Godiva and Leonidas – as well as many smaller chocolate boutiques. Godiva is the marginally better known, with a mouthwatering selection that includes fruity bon-bons, classic ganaches and truffles. At Leonidas, you can purchase a special range of presentation boxes, or you can choose from any of their individual chocolates in standard or luxury boxes.
Don’t leave the city without trying pralines, which are regarded as the ‘king’ of the chocolates in Brussels and taste too good for words.
I don’t know about you, but all I can think about after all that is how, where and when I’m going to get my next chocolate fix!
Do you have any other recommendations for places to go chocolate tasting? Tell me about them by posting in the comments box below.
on 14 / 04 / 2015