Who doesn’t love chocolate? After all, in some form or another, chocolate has been in our diet for more than 3,000 years. Reportedly, it was the Olmec who first brewed a drink from the locally-harvested cocoa bean and drank it during ceremonies and for medical reasons. The Maya praised it as food from the gods, and today, we have not only three main types of chocolate — white, milk, and dark — but also countless variations of the three.
Chocolate has proven health benefits, just as the Olmecs already anticipated, with antioxidants good for the heart, lowering incidents of stroke and heart disease. But that should not be a reason to indulge, just an additional excuse.
The countries that eat the most chocolate per capita each year are not necessarily surprising. Switzerland consumes 19.4 pounds per person, Germany 17.8 pounds per person, Ireland 17.4 pounds per person, the UK 16.8 pounds per person, and Sweden 14.6 pounds per person. The U.S. comes in at around 11 pounds per person each year.
While, according to statistics, Europeans seem to be front runners when it comes to reaching for a chocolate treat, there are many places around the world that produce chocolate, and where you can seriously indulge in the sweet stuff.
Here are some great destinations for chocolate lovers.
1. Brussels, Belgium
Belgian Chocolate And Beer
Belgium is known for its beer, fries, and, of course, its chocolate. Brands such as Godiva (my personal favorite), Leonidas, and Cote d’Or are only a few of the reportedly 2,000-plus chocolate stores found throughout Belgium. But to get the most out of Belgium’s famous food and drink options, why not combine two of them during a beer and chocolate pairing? From Antwerp to Bruges and Brussels, you can learn which beer works best with which chocolate. Or you can indulge without figuring out what goes with what on a walking and tasting tour through Brussels. Wash it all down with some fries and waffles after.
2. Zurich, Switzerland
Läderach And Lindt
Not only are the Swiss the highest consumers of the sweet stuff, but they also make the best chocolate. Period. And yet, the Swiss expertise is still relatively young, dating to the early 19th century. Columbus brought the cocoa bean back with him to Spain in the early 16th century. The yummy result slowly spread through the royal households of Europe. This is when the Swiss decided to pool their knowledge and business acumen to make something really special. And it worked.
Have you tried Läderach chocolate? Seriously, I could move in there. Luckily, the brand has spread around the world, and you don’t have to hop on a plane to Zurich to try it; although, that is a nice excuse. Another famous brand is Lindt, and in their Chocolateria just outside of Zurich, right by Lake Zurich, you can even learn how to make your own.
3. Accra, Ghana
World’s Largest Exporter Of Cocoa Beans
Chances are that the chocolate you are currently munching on while reading this was made from a cocoa bean exported from Ghana. Together with Ivory Coast, Ghana is the largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans. So, why travel to Ghana if you can eat the result of their harvests worldwide? There is nothing quite like seeing how a product starts — from growing on a tree, to harvesting, to the process that ends up in chocolate. A chocolate tour in Ghana is a must, being set in the home of the cocoa bean, if not necessarily the home of chocolate itself.
4. Oaxaca, Mexico
‘Chocolate Capital Of The World’
Going back to the origins, this is pretty much where it all began, and not surprisingly, Oaxaca calls itself the “Chocolate Capital of the World.” No longer a producer of the cocoa bean, Oaxaca was, however, along the trading route and somehow managed to nab a big slice of the segment for itself. Here, you can drink chocolate in various consistencies, hot or cold; or eat it plain, with almonds, cinnamon, chili, or whatever tickles your taste buds. Come to Mexico on September 2 and you can join in on the National Cocoa and Chocolate Day celebrations.
5. Hershey, Pennsylvania
Birthplace Of The Hershey Kiss
Even non-Americans know Hershey, especially those little kisses. And, some 95 miles from Philadelphia, there is an entire town taken over by chocolate, with enough to keep chocolate lovers interested for an entire weekend. Here, you can tour the various stages of chocolate manufacturing, learn and taste as you go, indulge in some wine with your chocolate at local vineyards, and, of course, buy as many kisses as you can carry home.
6. San Carlos De Bariloche, Argentina
Argentina’s Chocolate Capital
Patagonia is filled with pockets of Europeans, from Welsh towns to German enclaves. Bariloche is made up of a heady mix of European immigrants — many of which are Italian — who all came over after WWII. Bringing their favorite cuisines (chocolate featured high on the list) with the setting of Bariloche snuggled next to snow-capped mountains, you’d be forgiven to think you are in Switzerland. While there are chocolate stores next to chocolate stores in Bariloche, the popularity is even stronger during Easter, which coincides with the local Chocolate Festival.
7. Bournville, England
All Things Cadbury
What Hershey is for Americans and Läderach is for the Swiss, Cadbury is for the English. It’s simply their favorite chocolate in its iconic purple-blue wrapper. And on the outskirts of Birmingham, an industrial city with scenic canals and parks in the Midlands, quite fittingly lies the chocolate factory together with its main attraction: Cadbury World. While there is plenty of history found on the site, with the Cadbury Brothers setting up here in the mid-1800s, this is more of a chocolate theme park. It features a museum, rides, cafés, chocolate-making fun, and the world’s largest Cadbury store.
8. Cologne, Germany
Stollwerck Chocolate Company
Cologne is the home of Stollwerck Chocolate Company, founded in 1839, and the United States’ second-largest chocolate supplier. Producing around 100,000 tons of chocolate per year, they know how to go big and they have a museum to prove it. To be fair, the museum is centered around Lindt chocolates. (Don’t tell anybody, but I prefer Lindt to Stollwerck.) But it highlights both companies’ chocolate-making expertise and inventions. This is a privately-owned museum, owned by Family Imhoff, who acquired Stollwerck Chocolate in the 1970s and built the museum following a childhood dream. Here, there are guided tours to learn all about chocolate from beginning to end, while the end result can be tasted in the on-site café and chocolate store.
9. Mount Washington Valley, New Hampshire
Cross Country Chocolate Festival
There is a hint of Bavaria in the air with snow-covered mountains and the distinct aroma of chocolate. Mount Washington Valley’s 33rd Annual Chocolate Festival, combined with the Chocolate Cross Country Festival, takes place on February 26, 2023. The festival takes visitors on skiing and snowshoeing trails while simultaneously offering the chance to “enjoy chocolate prepared every way imaginable.” Listed as one of 11 Delicious Chocolate Tours Around the World, this offers you not only great chocolate before and after your route, but also the chance to cross-country through a beautiful setting.
Pro Tip: While in Mount Washington Valley, make sure to check out the Bavarian Chocolate House, one of the area’s top attractions for chocolate lovers.
10. St. Lucia
A Chocolate Hotel And Spa
Snow not really your thing, but the Caribbean is? Look no further than St. Lucia. Previously one of the world’s largest banana exporters, after the collapse of the industry, St. Lucia embraced its historic crop of the cocoa bean and has since become a Caribbean chocolate destination. One particular stop to stay and indulge in all things chocolate is the Rabot Estate by Hotel Chocolat, located within a cocoa plantation.
With rooms looking out across to the iconic Piton Mountains, here you can learn about sustainability, cocoa beans, and chocolate manufacturing. You can even make your very own chocolate bar. Then, heading to the spa, you can be exfoliated with ground cocoa beans, have a cocoa-cinnamon massage, a cocoa facial, and a cocoa detox. If you are still keen on chocolate after all that, you can sit on the incredible veranda to eat and drink chocolate.
11. Adelaide, Australia
Australia’s Oldest Chocolatier
After the collapse of Ernest Hillier Chocolates, Australia’s oldest chocolatier, Haigh’s Chocolates is now Australia’s oldest, still-running, family-owned chocolate business. But to be fair, Haigh was only 1 year younger than Hillier in the first place. Located on the doorstep of South Australia’s capital city of Adelaide, the chocolate maker is also located in prime wine country.
Other chocolate experiences are to be had nearby, including a wonderful chocolate and wine pairing aptly called ChocoVino in the quaint German village Hahndorf, just 16 miles southeast of Adelaide. You can opt for pairing with dark, milk, or even white chocolate with locally-produced wines. If you are the designated driver, or indeed the designated chocoholic of the family, there is also a just-chocolate option, without the wine. If this is not sweet enough, you could follow the experience up with an ice cream and wine pairing, featuring Australian-flavored ice cream.