Valentine’s Day brings out the chocolate lover in all of us, but true chocoholics know that a tour of a chocolate factory or confectioner’s shop can be a memorable part of a trip any time of year. In honor of every traveler who loves sweet confections, here is a slideshow of some of the world’s coolest chocolate destinations, from a Pennsylvania spa that features divine whipped cocoa baths to a museum in Australia with a chocolate waterfall worthy of Willy Wonka.
1. Rococo Flagship Store, London
In this enchanting labyrinth of all things chocolate, you can shop for cocoa nibs and crystallized violet petals, sip hot chocolate in a Moorish-style courtyard while watching chocolatiers in action, or take a truffle-rolling class at the adjacent school. Chantal Coady worked behind the Harrods candy counter before opening Rococo in 1983; it now has four locations and is one of Britain’s largest handmade chocolate makers. Its artisan bars, which come in antique packaging with exotic flavors like basil and Persian lime, make them a perfect gift for chocolate lovers back home.
2. Pannys Amazing World of Chocolate, Melbourne
Kids and kids at heart will love this Willy Wonka-meets-Disneyland experience near Melbourne, Australia, where you can make your own chocolate bars, steer a miniature train through a chocolate village, and gape at chocolate stalagmites and a mosaic wall with Dame Edna’s likeness fashioned out of truffles. Another highlight: what may be the world’s largest chocolate waterfall.
3. Theo Chocolate Tour, Seattle
One of the youngest bean-to-bar factories in the U.S., Theo offers 60-minute tours that draw raves for their generous samples and thoroughness. Enthusiastic guides walk you through everything from the bean-roasting and table-tempering process to the final ganache-making steps in a 100-year-old building that once housed streetcars, now filled with vintage roasting and grinding machinery. Best of all, the store sells unique factory-only flavors like salted licorice caramel, key lime pie and peach riesling.
4. Maison Cailler, Switzerland
The Swiss love chocolate, and few factories showcase that as comprehensively as this one. Set on an idyllic estate in the western Swiss village of Broc, Cailler’s hour-long tours begin with a look at ancient Aztec cocoa ceremonies, walk you through the milk chocolate production line and end, blissfully, with an all-you-can-eat tasting experience. Reservation-required workshops demonstrate how to make personalized pralines, cream-filled Valentine’s Day hearts and kid-friendly chocolate molds.
5. Mast Brothers Chocolate, Brooklyn
The brothers behind this craft factory in Brooklyn offer an intimate tour that mirrors their science-meets-bicycle-culture path to artisanal chocolate perfection. Raw cacao beans from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Madagascar are hand-sorted, roasted and winnowed through a machine custom-made by a friend and former aerospace engineer. One of the highlights of the tour is seeing how flavors like chili pepper and Stumptown coffee are added to the process.
6. Mina Street, Oaxaca
There is perhaps no better place to soak up Oaxaca’s important place in the world’s chocolate cosmos than Calle Francisco Javier Mina near the city’s central market. Also known as Chocolate Street, it’s home to some of Mexico‘s biggest names in chocolate, as well as family-owned shops where everything is made on the premises and hot chocolate is treated with the seriousness of fine wine. Inhale the unique aroma of chocolate and cinnamon (mixed with a dash of diesel fumes) while you watch roasted cocoa beans being ground with spices in the windows of Mayordomo, or head to La Soledad for Chocomiel, an energizing drink laced with honey and vanilla. For chocolate lovers, it just doesn’t get any more authentic.
7. Taza Factory Tour, Boston
The aroma of dark chocolate mixed with hints of spices and floral accents greets you at the door — the first sign that this Somerville, Massachusetts, bean-to-bar operation takes its mission very seriously. One of the few factories in the U.S. to make 100 percent stone-ground chocolate, Taza leads 45-minute tours where you’ll see the hand-carved molinos (mills) used to grind the cacao beans and learn about direct-trade sourcing. The tour ends at the store, which is laden with free samples and includes factory-limited items like chocolate-covered nuts.
8. Cacao Sampaka, Barcelona
Ferran Adria’s famed El Bulli restaurant closed in 2011, but its experimental culinary spirit lives on in this haute Barcelona shop, which was cofounded by his brother Albert. Traditional truffles and tablets share aisle space with out-of-this-world offerings like sachets of fried corn with bitter chocolate, and bars flavored with Parma ham, anchovies and hazelnuts, and Modena vinegar. Prolong the heavenly experience by ordering churros and chocolate or a dark chocolate raspberry gelato in the back seating area. There are also branches in Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Madrid and other cities.
9. Spa at the Hotel Hershey, Pennsylvania
The chocolate treatments on the menu at this high-end hotel spa honor the rich history of Chocolatetown, U.S.A., and go above and beyond typical massage and facial offerings. Try a chocolate fondue wrap, unwind in a whipped cocoa bath, or indulge in an edible dark chocolate facial or invigorating chocolate sugar scrub — you’re guaranteed to glide out on a decadent, chocolate-tinged cloud.
10. Schokoladenmuseum, Germany
Three floors of a huge futuristic building on the Rhine are devoted entirely to the 3,000-year history of chocolate, from 1920s-era television ads to the making of molds to the re-creation of a tropical rain forest with actual cacao trees. The piece de resistance at Cologne’s Schokoladenmuseum, or Chocolate Museum, is the giant chocolate fountain in the lobby — look for the staffer dipping waffles in it and handing out samples to all who enter.
11. Hotel Chocolat, St. Lucia
St. Lucia‘s oldest chocolate plantation, which opened in 2011 as an eco-friendly boutique hotel, was dubbed “cacao heaven” by the New York Times. Stay in one its 14 luxurious suites and you may find yourself harvesting your own cacao pods, learning how to turn them into truffles, indulging in a cocoa-oil massage, then kicking back at the infinity pool with a cacao Bellini. Bliss.
12. Perugina Tour and Chocolate School, Italy
Nestle-owned Perugina makes Baci, foil-wrapped nuggets of dark chocolate and hazelnut cream, and other confections in its factory in Umbria, Italy. Reservation-only tours begin at a small museum and move on to an up-close look at the large-scale, three-shifts-a-day world of chocolate production. Elevated walkways give you a bird’s-eye view of the whizzing conveyor belts and vats, and plentiful samples are offered throughout your visit.
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–written by Laura Randall
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