As Easter Sunday approaches, our thoughts turn (even more than usual) to chocolate. Sweet and light, rich and dark. Melt-in-the-mouth loveliness. Sorry, where were we? Ah yes – chocolate isn't just a delicious snack, it's been shown to have a beneficial impact on heart health, to improve cognitive function and to heighten your mood. It's a veritable superfood.
In short, chocolate deserves to be celebrated. And what better way to honour it than by visiting some of the places in the world that have made the biggest contribution to our beloved confectionery? With that in mind, we’ve picked out our favourite places for chocolate worshippers, accompanied by some fascinating facts with which to wow your fellow chocoholics.
Here are the Flexicover team’s favourite chocolate-loving destinations.
Fact: Switzerland consumes more chocolate per capita than any other country, at 8.8 kg a year.
Switzerland is as synonymous with chocolate as it is with multipurpose knives, expensive watches, and fondue. As well as being the world's biggest chocolate gluttons the Swiss export their famed cocoa products across the planet with the UK, France, Italy and Germany representing its biggest markets. While you're visiting this alpine paradise why not explore one of the country's prestigious chocolate factories to see where the magic happens? At the Frey Chocolate Factory in Buchs you can take a tour of the premises, decorate your own chocolate bar and even dress up as a cocoa bean…although that’s probably intended for the kids.
Fact: The Ivory Coast is the world's largest producer of cocoa beans, at around two billion tons a year.
Cocoa beans are grown in tropical countries across the Equator but four West African nations - the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon - are responsible for about 70% of global production. Of those the Ivory Coast is the largest single producer making it something of a mecca for those with a sweet tooth. Try locally grown and artisanal choccies like Instant Chocolat to get your chocolate fix. And in between, the paradise beaches and light blue seas of Grand Bassam should make for a decent holiday.
Fact: One in every 200 Belgian workers is involved in the manufacture, sale or marketing of chocolate.
Belgium gives Switzerland a run for its money as the spiritual home of fancy chocolate. The Belgian chocolate industry gave the world the indulgent Praline and slightly more obscurely the ballotin: a deep, decorative cardboard box used for packaging high-end chocolate products. Not only that but the tiny Belgian town of Wieze, a 45-minute drive north-west of Brussels, is home to what's thought to be the world's largest chocolate factory. Owned by Barry Callebaut, it runs its own academy where 500 people a week get to learn about the latest trends, techniques and recipes in the apparently fast-moving world of chocolate.
Fact: Germany isn't actually the home of the German Chocolate Cake. Instead, it was named after Sam German, who invented a type of sweet baking chocolate for the US chocolatier Baker's.
Germans are famed for their collective sweet tooth; the world's first Easter eggs were made in Germany and France back in the early 19th century. It's also home to one of the world's top chocolaty attractions: the Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum in Cologne, run in partnership with Swiss chocolate boffins Lindt. Covering 4,000 square metres the museum boasts nine exhibition areas that'll teach you all you need to know about the history of our favourite product from its early consumption by the Mayans and Aztecs to its eventual industrialisation and glorious ascent to global prominence.
Fact: The Mayans, who lived in south-eastern Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, were the world's first chocolate consumers.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the ancient inhabitants of modern-day Mexico, the Mayans and Aztecs, for opening our eyes to the splendour of chocolate. They combined ground cocoa beans with spices and water to make a drink. Not quite a Dairy Milk bar, but still. Montezuma, the fearsome Aztec ruler, is believed to have consumed 50 jars of chocolate a day, making him the world's first chocoholic. To sample Mexico's centuries-old chocolate heritage, take a trip to Oaxaca where Mayordomo is the biggest producer of drinking chocolate. Founded as a family business in 1956 the company is more than happy to show tourists around its factory.
Wherever you plan on heading to this year it’s good to know that Flexicover Travel Insurance is committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.