Europe could merrily be renamed chocontinent, as far as we are concerned. Traipsing through its chocolate hotspots can dizzy you with delight. But steady, as you join TS writer Megha Uppal on the continents choicest chocolate trails:
Praline Chocolates were invented in 1902 and 102 years later, they are one of Belgium’s most famous attractions. The country produces 172,000 tons of chocolate every year! However, these Belgian treats are all about quality and not quantity. Silky and smooth is the traditional favourite, while less sweet is the ‘artisanal’ style or with nuts and cream. The sister cities – Brussels and Bruges – also have chocolate feasts on offer. The Grand Palace in Brussels boasts of chocolate laden cafes, restaurants, bars, boutiques and shops – just a few feet from each other. La Maison des Maitres Chocolatiers Belges, Edouard Bechoux of Florenville and Museum of Cocoa & Chocolate are other must-visits.
The Swiss chocolate legacy began in 1875 and has proudly contributed several twists in chocolate-making to the world, such as Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Fondue, bitter Chocolate etc. Swiss chocolates are already world renowned, but you can enhance your experience by riding the Swiss Chocolate Train – a day trip from Montreux to Broc, and a tour of the Nestle/Cailler chocolate factory. Click away as you pass vineyards, Alpine peaks and bucolic countryside.
Claiming to be the best chocolate producer of the world, France provides the chocolate connoisseur with the premier Haute Chocolat shops, especially in Paris. Take the chocolate walking tours to sample unrivalled chocolates, such as Pierre Hermes and Pierre Marcolini. Salon du Chocolat – world’s largest consumer chocolate show is held in Paris every year; make sure to plan your chocolate trail around it!
Beware! The smell of chocolate in the air might be intoxicating. With chocolates being made within the shops, a chocolate revolution has hit Britain in the past years. At present, London is the top destination for artisanal chocolates; shedding the image of a super-sweet product, chocolate in England now consists of goat’s cheese, Welsh lavender, caramelized rose petals and the British “delicacy,” Marmite (a spread made from brewer’s yeast). The best time to visit London would be during the ‘Chocolate Week in London’, held every October.
Other than being a honeymoon destination, this Caribbean island doubles up as a crème de la crème of chocolate-travel experiences. Hotel Chocolat offers a special ‘Cacao Cuisine’ menu – a selection of culinary masterpieces, like citrus salad with cashews and white chocolate dressing, Cacao Guacamole, and curried coconut and Cacao chicken. One cannot visit St. Lucia and not go to Jade Mountain Resort, which hosts its own Chocolate Festival in December – starting with chocolat-inis, chocolate-inspired finger foods and a chocolate fondue, moving on to a tour of their cocoa plantation and a chocolate-making workshop led by the resident chef, and culminating in an all-chocolate dinner. It’s the chocolate island you always dreamed about!
Go, gain some chocolate wisdom! And maybe a million calories. Ah, but who’s counting?