In recent years, there has been a surge in the popularity of artisan chocolate. Taste-conscious consumers are not only demanding higher quality, but also sustainable, ethically-sourced produce. This demand can only mean good news for hardworking cocoa farmers around the world, as well as for those of us with a sweet tooth.
So, if you can’t get enough of your favourite treat or are looking for something extra special this Easter, there are innumerable ways to indulge your cocoa-fuelled passion on your travels. Far superior to any bar of Dairy Milk or Green & Blacks, these chocolatier nations produce some of the finest cocoa-based confectionary on the planet. Prepare to melt into chocolate heaven…
Heralded as the pioneers of chocolate making, the ancient Mesoamericans started using the ground beans of the cacao plant in 1900BC. They began the world’s love affair with chocolate by mixing ground cocoa with water and corn flour to create a frothy, bitter version of the drink we know today as hot chocolate. Ever since, chocolate making has been firmly rooted in Oaxaca’s culture; it is a cherished tradition with much of the local produce still made by hand. Visit a local chocolate factory to watch the ancient treat being mixed using traditional methods and head to the Abastos Market to sample the delicacies of Oaxaca’s artisan chocolate makers.
Switzerland’s chocolate obsession began in 1875 when Daniel Peter first mixed cow’s milk into the somewhat bitter dark brown delicacy that had found its way over from the Americas. By making it more palatable, Peter caused its popularity to soar and by 1879, Rudolphe Lindt had given rise to the chocolate fondue craze. Today, Lindt and Nestlé are household names in Swiss chocolate making, but perhaps this small country’s best-known confectionary treat is the Toblerone. Many believe its pyramid shape was inspired by the Matterhorn – Switzerland’s most iconic mountain. Today, the Swiss are the world’s biggest indulgers, with the highest per capita consumption rate of chocolate.
Few people would think of this Caribbean island as a chocolate-making epicentre. Better known for its iconic jungle-cloaked Pitons than its cacao growing history, it is nevertheless these lush volcanic slopes that help produce the distinctive flavour of St Lucian chocolate. Cacao has been growing here for hundreds of years and today St Lucia is fast becoming one of the world’s leading chocolate tourism destinations. Less sugary-sweet than its European counterparts, St Lucian chocolate offers connoisseurs a depth of flavour hard to find in confectionary at home. A few of the island’s top resorts run their own cacao plantations; Jade Mountain even celebrates with its annual Chocolate Festival in October.
When Columbus brought cacao beans back to Europe after discovering the fruit being used by indigenous peoples in the Americas, he could not have known of the craze he was starting. Spain was the first European nation to develop a taste for chocolate and for the past 150 years, Barcelona has been home to some of the finest chocolatiers. Check out Chocolates Amatller and Chocolate a la Taza if you want to tickle the taste buds with their intricate creations.
In June 2002, UNESCO inscribed the eight towns of the Val di Noto onto the World Heritage List as representations of “the final flowering of Baroque art in Europe”- and boy, were they right to do so! This exquisitely beautiful region, dominated by the limestone Iblean plateau, is home to the honey-coloured city of Noto and the smaller towns of Ragusa and Modica. It was the Spanish that originally brought chocolate to Sicily, having discovered it being used by the Aztecs in Mexico in the 16th century. Today, on this part of the island, Sicilians take chocolate making very seriously and despite massive technological advances, still insist on using the same ancient production methods and traditional ingredients the Aztecs used.