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The world's hot chocolate zones: Cool continental treats that really hit the sweet spot


Grenada: It’s no surprise that chocolate crops thrive across the islands of the Caribbean.The sunshine and rich volcanic soil on many islands is ideal for nurturing the trees, a fact readily exploited by the colonial powers that historically tussled over the region.

The Spaniards first planted cacao in Trinidad in 1525. From the late 16th century, as European demand for the crop grew, more slaves were shipped over from Africa to The West Indies to work the fields and satisfy a distant continent’s growing chocolate cravings.

The Grenada Chocolate Company is a leading light in ethical – and delicious – chocolate production.

In 1999, an Organic Cocoa Farmers’ and Chocolate-Makers’ Cooperative was set up by visionary American Mott Green and Grenadian farmers Doug Browne and Edmond Brown.

It proved a game-changer, demonstrating that it was possible to produce chocolate on Grenada while also benefitting local people.

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Chocolate crops thrive in Grenada where there is rich volcanic soil (Image: Getty)

The company’s success has led to the island becoming a real hub for the sweet stuff, inspiring other artisan chocolatiers and, in 2014, the founding of the Grenada Chocolate Festival, held each May in St George’s.

At the Grenada Chocolate Company’s bonbon shop you can learn about the chocolate-making process and buy handmade truffles and award-winning bars, including Salty-Licious, made with Caribbean sea salt, and the punchy 100 per cent pure cocoa, so strong it’s almost savoury.

Dominica: People have been producing cocoa, coffee and sugar cane here for around 300 years.

When American business executive Jonathan Lehrer first found Bois Cotlette in 2011, it was a little worse for wear. First settled in the 1730s by a French family from Martinique, the estate was still owned by descendants of the original settlers, and largely neglected.

But since Lehrer decided to leave the corporate world to turn farmer and chocolatier, Bois Cotlette has been back in business.

Chocolate tours explore the site’s legacy of cacao cultivation and there’s also the chance to process a pod into a bar, with plenty of tastings. 

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Indulge in the rich stuff on Chocolate Day on July 7 (Image: Getty)

SOUTH AMERICA

Ecuador: It’s thought that Ecuador’s chocolate-making history stretches back more than 5,000 years but it’s only since 2002 that pioneering Ecuadorian brand Pacari has been an industry game-changer.

Now Pacari’s fair trade, biodynamic, organic, multi-award-winning chocolate is for sale in around 30 countries.

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At its Casa de Experiencias in La Floresta there are free chocolate tastings.

Pacari’s chocolate comes in various flavours such as Andean rose, Peruvian pink salt or even gin.

USA

San Francisco: Small-batch chocolate factory Dandelion Chocolate cultivates an elegant air with its salon dining room.

First, calibrate your taste buds with a few free samples: let a small square of rich, nutty Maya Mountain melt on your tongue.

dandelion chocolate

Dandelion Chocolate boasts an elegant salon dining room (Image: Getty)

Embark on one of the regular tours of the factory floor, inhaling the scent of cacao beans roasted and ground on-site.True connoisseurs should book the bean-to-bar class, which delves into chocolate history and cacaogrowing techniques.The grand finale involves getting delightfully sticky making your own chocolate.

EUROPE

Austria: Blame it on the Habsburgs. These sweet-toothed monarchs were the early patrons of confectioners and chocolatiers, many of which survive to this day in Vienna, such as Demel, founded in 1786 and once purveyor to the royal court.

In years to come, this triggered one-upmanship among coffeehouse confectioners, aiming to outdo each other with cakes fit for an emperor.Along came Sacher with its dark, glossily iced, apricot jam-laced Sachertorte; Cafe Central with its marzipan-filled, orangeinfused milk-chocolate torte; and Demel with the Annatorte, a lavish chocolate-nougat torte with ganache layers.

What could be more vienesse than forking a decadent slice of Sachertorte in the chandelier-lit, ruby-red confines of opulent Café Sacher, where portraits of Hapsburg royalty glower on the walls and pinafored waitresses waltz in symphony from table to marbletopped table. If it feels rather regal, that’s because it is.

Belgium: The vibrant city of Brussels is most credible as the world’s chocolate capital. This tiny independent kingdom was founded in 1830. Brussels has more than 300 chocolate boutiques, chocolatiers, museums and hands-on workshops where passionate amateurs can get their hands deliciously sticky creating their own chocolates.

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Original torte with cream at Sacher Cafe (Image: Shutterstock)

The term “Belgian chocolate” really does have a significance for global consumers, as there are rules and regulations ensuring that the chocolate is produced in Belgium.

Chocolate-maker to the Belgian royal family,Wittamer is best tasted in their old-world salon de thé on the Grand Sablon square in Brussels. For chocolate-making workshops try Zaabar and for small batches, try Mary, founded in 1919 by Mary Delluc.

IRELAND

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As a nation, Ireland is the world’s third highest consumer of chocolate per capita.

In the past few decades Irish palates have sought out inventive, artisan chocolate taking inspiration from local ingredients.

The result is small, local chocolatemakers creating delicious bars and sweets.

Producers take advantage of the unique taste of Irish dairy to make their milk chocolate extra special.With cows grazing on good quality pasture of grass and clovers, their produce has been proven to have better nutritional value.

At Skelligs Chocolate Factory in County Kerry, try famous truffles or award-winning alcohol-soaked fruit in chocolate. It also has stunning views looking over to the iconic Skellig Michael.

The Ó Conaill Hot Chocolate & Coffee Shop in Cork boasts 120 varieties, allowing you to create your own drink with any number of flavours, from espresso to spices, praline nuts or essential oils.

The chocolate is melted at the shop counter where you can create your own elaborate concoction or opt for a signature recipe from their menu.

SWITZERLAND

Here, chocolate is more than just an occasional treat: it’s a bona fide national obsession. The Swiss are champions at eating it, devouring more per capita (10.3kg, or 22.7lb) than anywhere else in the world, and keeping 50 per cent of all they produce to themselves.

While exact recipes remain closely guarded secrets, there are several factors that set Swiss chocolate apart. First and foremost is the rich milk from cows fed on lush Alpine pastures, then there are the sustainably-sourced cacao beans.

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In Switzerland, chocolate is a ‘national obsession’ (Image: Facebook)

Last but not least is the conching technique, where the liquid is rolled, folded and aerated for up to 72 hours. This being Switzerland, quality is strictly controlled.

One of Switzerland’s oldest chocolate makers, Cailler has been making chocolate since 1825, when it was founded by François-Louis Cailler.

Its entertaining factory tours take visitors on an extravagant twirl through chocolate history, made even sweeter by generous free samples. They also offer themed chocolate workshops.?

ZURICH

Max Chocolatier in Zurich is like falling down the rabbit hole and finding wonderland. Run with globetrotting passion by the König family, this super-stylish chocolatier cuts no corners – everything is handmade and stamped, only sustainably sourced Grand Cru cacao goes into the decadently dark truffles, bean-to-bars and ganaches, made with 100 per cent natural ingredients.

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Max Chocolatier makes everything handmade (Image: Getty)

GERMANY

Chocolate arrived in Germany in the 17th century, as medicine sold in pharmacies. Germany is Europe’s leader in chocolate consumption.

In the beginning, it was an expensive status product enjoyed only by aristocracy.

By the 19th century, chocolate became much more affordable thanks to new factories, a lift on cocoa taxes and local beet sugar replacing the costly imported stuff.The famous Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest cake) was also supposedly invented at this time.

Try chocolatier Kevin Kugel in southern Germany for his pretty pralines made with homegrown ingredients, and Berlin lays claim to the award-winning Coda, Germany’s first desserts-only restaurant, which also makes its pralines and chocolate from roasted cacao beans. But it’s the Black Forest Cake to be had in the Black Forest.

In the charming village of Triberg, Cafe Schäfer makes Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte according to the original 1915 recipe from its creator Josef Keller.? cafe-schaefer-triberg.de With several locations, Beckesepp’s modern take on the cake is sold in a takeaway tin.

Despite the compact size, it’s still big enough to share. 

black forest cake

The Black Forest cake was invested in the 19th century (Image: Getty)

UK

The United Kingdom entered a veritable chocolate craze when the drink first made its way here in the 1650s, a luxury product that caused no little stir in London.

Later, John Cadbury would make drinking chocolate a pillar of his new company founded in 1824; his son expanded on the innovation by creating a village specifically for the company’s workers, Bournville.

York received its own special imprint from the growth of big-name confectioners, who transported their raw materials into the city via the River Ouse and sold their wares by York’s Minster Cathedral.Terry’s, Rowntree and Craven’s all flourished here, many run by Quaker owners who promoted chocolate as a wholesome alternative to alcohol.

Charbonnel et Walker, London’s oldest chocolate shop still in existence, opened in 1875.

The capital’s feast-of-the-senses shop Prestat, founded in 1902 by true pioneer and French émigré Antoine Dufour, would even inspire part of Roald Dahl’s vision for Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. 

Lonely Planet’s Global Chocolate Tour, £14.99 Pick of the staycation deals 





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