Mmm. Imagine uniting your passion for travel with your love of chocolate; we did in the run-up to this year's World Chocolate Day, which falls on 7 July, and found seven scrumptious ways to indulge a sweet tooth while exploring the globe.
Whether you yearn to see how cacao is grown, harvested and processed, to learn about its surprising healing qualities or simply want to gorge on the best chocolate bars that money can buy, these are the places to go.
Explore a chocolate factory at Cadbury World, Bournville, UK
Pop into any corner shop or newsagent in the UK and you’ll be able to grab a bar of Dairy Milk. But at Cadbury’s factory on the outskirts of Birmingham, you’ll get more than just a sugar rush for your money. Part of the Bournville model village, created by Cadbury’s in the late 19th century to provide high quality housing and education for its workers, the factory itself offers the chance to see the sweet stuff being made up close. There’s also a look at the company’s world-renowned advertising campaigns and, yes, the chance to snap up chocolate bars and other treats that you won’t find elsewhere. Once you’ve finished gorging yourself, be sure to explore Bournville’s backstreets and parks, if only to work off all of those calories.
Attend a chocolate festival in Perugia, Italy
Sating your appetite at a food festival is fun. But in Perugia they know that what you really want to do is skip the main course and get straight to dessert. Now in its 23rd year, the city’s annual Eurochocolate event (14-23 October) pulls in 900,000 people, every one of them obsessed with all things cocoa-based. There are tastings, chocolate cooking classes and even edible sculptures on show. Trawl the stalls to stock up on bars and liqueurs from Europe’s best chocolatiers and then lose the crowds in the city’s spectacular cobbled alleys and gorgeous piazzas. If you need more than a few minutes away from the chocolate-based fun, then the tranquil atmosphere of the Basilica di San Petro on the edge of town is the ideal hideout.
Sipping serious hot chocolate in Málaga, Spain
There’s frothy hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows. And then there’s the thick, dark, serious drinking chocolate you’ll find in the street-side cafes of Málaga on Spain’s Costa Del Sol. Pull up a pew at Casa Aranda in the city centre and smartly turned out waiters will appear wielding pots of scalding hot melted chocolate and plates of delicious churros. Once it’s been poured, let the chocolate cool before taking a sip or simply dip the doughnut-like treats in for a seriously sugary hit. Aranda attracts a pleasing mix of locals and chocolate fanciers, so be sure you fit right in by lingering over your drink and indulging in a spot of people watching.
Buying chocolate in Brussels, Belgium
Brussels’ reverence for chocolate means that no souvenir shop here worth its weight in salted caramel doesn’t sell chocolate. And while you’ll find big names like Godiva everywhere, if you want something special, the Belgian capital is blessed with some of the world’s finest chocolate shops. Queen among them is Mary on the opulent Rue Royale. Family-run, it has stuck with the same recipes for its smooth dark chocolate since opening in 1919. The simple Truffette, a chocolate mousse dusted with cocoa powder, is our favourite from a lip-smacking selection. La Belgique Gourmande has seven locations across town where you can build your own box to take home or scoff on the Metro. Pierre Marcolini’s high-end chocolate shop serves his own creations, made from beans which he sources himself.
Indulge in a chocolate spa treatment at Boucan, St Lucia
Owned by swanky chocolate makers Hotel Chocolat, Boucan is a boutique hotel in St Lucia that revolves around cocoa. And while tours explaining the growing process and chocolate-making classes are enough to get you salivating, what really sets this five-star joint apart are its cocoa-based spa treatments. The cacao bean, from which chocolate is made, is renowned for its rejuvenating properties, with antioxidants aplenty. Book yourself a facial or a massage and you’ll be exfoliated with cocoa beans and slathered in cacao and banana paste, before your kinks are worked out with specially crafted cacao oil. Fully unwound, you can either nibble on some chocolate by the pool or jump on the free shuttle bus down to Sugar Beach.
Tour a cacao farm in Oreba, Bocas Del Toro, Panama
The chilled Caribbean vibe in this northern outpost of Panama is ripe for kicking back and not doing much more than sipping rum on the beach. But deep in the verdant forests of this corner of Central America you’ll find some of the finest cacao farms in the world. Tours are easy to come by and offer a fascinating insight into a craft which is centuries old. The Oreba Chocolate Tour (oreba.bocasdeltoro.org) is run by farmers from the indigenous Ngabe tribe, who’ll take you wandering through the trees, explaining how raw cacao is turned into cocoa and then delectable chocolate. You’ll even get a chance to eat a local meal with your guides afterwards and, of course, buy some of their first-rate chocolate to boot.
Take a chocolate-making workshop with Divine Chocolate, UK
Divine’s delicious chocolate has been winning plaudits for years, and not just for the taste. The UK-based Fairtrade company is 44% owned by Kuapa Kokoo, a cooperative of cocoa growers in Ghana, meaning the farmers share the profits they help to create while also gaining increased influence in the cocoa industry. You can learn more about Divine’s unique story and try the chocolate at its workshops, run by chocolatiers Erik Houlihan-Jong and Gloria Lilley. The events take place at food festivals, Fairtrade events and privately across the UK (divinechocolate.com), with tastings and classes on how to make everything from truffles to chocolate lollies.