3 Delicious Destinations for Chocolate Lovers
What’s not to love about chocolate and the places that deliver a delicious chocolate experience? Immerse yourself in the lore of cocoa, and indulge your sweet tooth with these three mouth-watering destinations.
1. Bruges, Belgium
Bruges is a postcard perfect town which should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s a city of art, monuments, museums, canals and an impressive bell tower that featured prominently in the black comedy In Bruges. There are 52 individual chocolate shops despite a population of only 20,000, and each of them has their specialty.
“We are the chocolate capital in Belgium with the most concentration of chocolate shops in Europe,” says Bruges chocolate maker Dominique Persoone. “Now we focus on our diversity. Some shops specialize in marzipan, others in pralines or in cream fillings, for example. When people think about Belgium and Bruges we want them to think chocolate.”
Best of all, Bruges is not just about chocolate shops. Chocolate walking tours are offered year-round, and tourists can buy a booklet with vouchers and do their own sweet tour. There’s even Choco-Story, The Chocolate Museum, which holds chocolate making demonstrations and offers free samples.
2. Stratford, Ontario
Stratford, world famous for its annual Shakespeare Festival, likes to joke that many visitors come for the chocolate and stay for the plays. Home to three chocolate shops, along with restaurants and shops offering a wide range of cacao-based products, the city has concocted a tour that will make you feel like a kid in a candy shop. A $25 Chocolate Trail Pass includes vouchers that entitle you to choose six of the stops on a self-guided tour.
At Chocolate Barr’s Candies, have your choice of several complimentary chocolates. Owner Derek Barr makes over 160 items, but it’s his Minties that are the most popular.
Competitor Rheo Thompson Candies has over 40 years of tradition, and makes 100 different kinds of chocolate, as well as a host of hard candies, specialty nuts and sweets. Collect your complimentary handmade assorted cream and caramel center chocolates and pick your favourite.
Even sweeter, the trail is more than just eats. At the environmental store P’Lovers you can pick up a bag of chocolate peppermint Dead Sea salts. Around the corner, sniff chocolate tea blends at Distinctly Tea, and choose a free 50 gram bag. At Foster’s Inn, a turn-of-the-century heritage building, your treat is a chocolate martini made with vodka, chocolate syrup, crème de cacao and a splash of cream.
3. Ecuador’s Cacao Route
For over 400 years Ecuador and its inhabitants have been involved with activities surrounding the cacao bean, and the Ecuadorian Cacao Route is brimming with the finest cacao beans in the world.
This nine day chocolate and culture tour of Ecuador follows the path of the Gourmet Channel’s “El Cacao,” which documented chocolatier Jose Ramón Castillo’s travels across Ecuador to uncover the finest cocoa in the world, the “cacao fino de aroma.” The city of Vinces (known as Little Paris) is where Ecuador became the world’s main exporter of cocoa at the beginning of the last century.
At Hacienda Cañas you’ll learn about cacao tree plantations and the harvesting of the bean. At Rio Muchacho Organic Farm, near Bahia de Caráquez Ecocity in the province of Manabi, you’ll experience making chocolate from the beans to the cup. You’ll learn how generations of local women have made chocolate by roasting, grinding and adding spices to perfectly combine flavours and textures.