Chocolate Travel Tours Offer Sweet Adventure
It’s the middle of winter. I’m stuck indoors, with nothing to do but surf the intarwebz and think about sweets – and chocolate, glorious chocolate. Walking tours of local chocolate stores are a dime a dozen – so how about a chocolate travel tour? They come in two flavors: (no pun intended).
Tour Type 1: The Pretty Side of Chocolate
These tours are gentle and refined. We walk. We talk. We eat samples of chocolates. We visit chocolatiers’ beautiful shops.
- Chocolate Cruise To Mediterranean
Chicago Chocolate Tours is putting on the Chocolate Cruise in May 2008. This 7-day tour touches on some of the most popular ports of the Mediterranean, such as Barcelona, Rome, Cannes, Florence, Naples and Palermo, visiting some of the most unique chocolate shops in Europe, including the oldest chocolate shop in Rome, Confetteria Moriondo e Gariglio, operating since 1886.
The green traveler in you will love that a portion of the package price will be donated to the Conservation Fund’s Go Zero program, to plant trees to offset the carbon footprint of the trip.
Chicago Chocolate tours was founded by Valerie Beck, and if you like chocolate geekery (like me) be sure to check out her blog. She has topics like why dogs can’t eat chocolate and women like chocolate more than men.
- Chocolate Lovers Paradise Tours
Guided by Greta Inowlocki, a former Belgian travel agent and chocophile, this tour concentrates on Belgium, which is densely populated by chocolate shops, (over 2000), and whose capital Brussels is known as the “Chocolate Capital of the World.”
Tour Type 2: Show Me The Gory Details
These tours are for hardcore chocophiles. They visit countries where the cacao beans (the essence of chocolate) are grown. You’ll stay in quintas (local villas), wander through cacao plantations and make chocolate in traditional fashion with local cacao processors, usually village women. You will likely be plied with local chocolate liqueur and many people who take these tours are up and coming chocolatiers.
- Chocolate Eco-Tour to Belize
The Toledo district in Belize is one of the main sources for the cacao bean industry.
Clay Gordon is a chocolate critic, author, chocophile.com founder and organizer of the New York Discover Chocolate Meetup. He hosts the Chocolate Eco-tour to Belize, where you do all the stuff I mentioned above (if you go in May, you’ll also get to experience the Toledo Cacao Fest) AND how to make chocolate at home using kitchen appliances. This is surprising to me! I always imagined chocolate-making as this mysterious and magical process where the beans are harvested by virgins, blessed by temple-dwelling priests, and packaged by fairies. But apparently, all you need is a coffee grinder. While in Belize, why not check out one of the staggeringly popular local pastimes: chicken dropping?
- Tabasco “Food of the Gods” Cacao and Culinary Tour of Southern Mexico
The state of Tabasco produces the majority of cacao in the Republic of Mexico and is the heart of the ancient Mayan civilization. Sadly I’ve found that recently the farmers have experienced crop devastation because of floods last fall.
Mayatabasco hosts the Food of the Gods Cacao and Culinary tour in May 2008. This tour not only makes you part of the cacao harvesting and processing, but shows you oodles of traditional Mexican dishes that make use of cacao, such as Pozol (a traditional drink), moles sauces, and sweet desserts. The pricing and dates aren’t on the page just yet, but I’m assured by the owner (who addressed me as “Senorita Charlotte”) that it will be up shortly.
While I found oodles of chocolate blogs, I have to recommend one in particular: The Art of Tasting Chocolate, a chocolate blog by San Francisco chef Karletta Moniz. More than the usual chocolate review blog (this one sucked, this one rocked), Karletta’s blog has varied topics and reviews, pretty pictures and excellent writing, i.e., her holiday series of “the twelve days of chocolate” and my favorite quote of the day: “cupcakes are the puppies of the food world.”