In the build-up to Easter we've been enjoying more than our fair share of Mini Eggs here at Original Travel HQ, which got us thinking a little bit more about chocolate and the origins of our favourite afternoon snack. So we've come up with a list of our best chocolate-based experiences around the world, whether that involves spending time with expert chocolatiers or tracing this sweet treat all the way back to its source. Apologies in advance to anyone who has given up chocolate for lent - we suggest you look away now to stop yourself from salivating over your keyboard...
Sao Tome and Principe
This September, Sundy Praia Lodge on the small tropical African island of Principe is hosting a Tropical Chocolate Safari experience with the author of Chocolat, Joanne Harris, and renowned chocolatier David Greenwood-Haigh. This week-long chocolate immersion will include visits to cacao plantations, where you can harvest your own pods and plant a sapling to help maintain the sustainability of the cacao crop, before getting involved in making your own chocolate. You can also enjoy writing and chocolate workshops and the chance to learn about the island's cultural and colonial history as one of the biggest producers of chocolate in the world.
Combine a family treetop adventure with chocolate tasting on the Indonesian island of Bali. Head up into the treetops on the outskirts of the Batukaru Mountain range and enjoy high-flying swings, rope ladders and a 160-metre long zip line, perfect for both children and adults. Once you've worked up an appetite, head to a local chocolate factory to learn how beans are grown and the process by which they are transformed from bean to bar. You can then pick a flavour and a topping and create your own chocolate bar as the perfect souvenir (although it may not last long if you've got sweet-toothed children in tow).
McLaren Vale, Australia
In Mclaren Vale in South Australia you can combine two of our favourite things: chocolate and wine. At Wirra Wirra winery enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour and learn about the process of barrel ageing in the old ironstone cellars. Then sit down to a tasting of five of their best Shiraz wines perfectly paired with a chocolate platter from a local chocolatier. Sign. Us. Up.
No chocolate list worth its salt-ed caramel is complete without a Swiss entry and we've come up with a suitably indulgent option. Stay at Beau-Rivage Palace on the shores of Lake Geneva and take a trip on the 'Chocolate Train' for the ultimate cheese and chocolate combo experience. Stop off at La Maison du Gruyere to learn about the production of this famous Swiss cheese before stopping at Maison Cailler, where you can discover the secrets of the creation of Swiss chocolate and enjoy a special tasting. At the museum you can learn about the history of chocolate, from Aztec cocoa ceremonies to the chocolate bars you find in supermarkets today.
The history of chocolate can be traced back to Mexico, and the word itself comes from the Aztec word chocolÄtl, so this is another one that we couldn't miss off the list. Chocolate was originally served as a bitter fermented drink by the Aztecs and it was only when it arrived in Europe in the 16th century that sugar was added and its popularity grew. You can still sample this sort of chocolate drink in parts of southern Mexico today, but thankfully there are also some slightly more tasty options available. Try the famous Mexican dish Mole Poblano, which originates from Puebla and Oaxaca and is a savoury chocolate-based dish usually served with chicken. For the more sweet of tooth, pick up some churros dunked in a delicious chocolate sauce at a local market, a very popular treat in Mexico. In Mexico City, learn about the role chocolate has played in the country's history and how it has evolved today, and visit the Chocolate Museum to discover how the cocoa bean has been used since pre-Hispanic times in both sweet and savoury foods.
Grenada is thought to be one of the finest producers of chocolate in the world, and on the Caribbean's 'Spice Isle' you can experience the entire production process. Visit the Belmont Estate and get involved in the workings of this functional 17th century plantation with a tour of the farm, gardens, heritage museum and cocoa processing facilities. You'll get a real 'bean-to-bar' perspective and even try cacao fresh from the pod. This summer, from 31st May to 7th June, the island is hosting the Grenada Chocolate Festival, which is a celebration of the island's natural resources, fertile environment and sustainable chocolate making culture. Explore cocoa plantations amid the Caribbean rainforest, make your own chocolate and get involved in some slightly more unusual chocolate-based activities such as chocolate tasting meditation and yoga, and making your own organic chocolate beauty potions.
If you're in the market for a chocolatey adventure of your own, get in touch today.