Indulge in a romantic getaway based on chocolate, the food of love, with these 10 chocolate heaven honeymoon destinations from Montezuma to the Milk Tray Man
The ancient Mayan people of Central America were the first
recorded lovers of one of the world's most sought after beans. Even
the Mayan word 'Cacao' roughly translates to "Food of the Gods".
Lovers from Casanova to the Milk Tray Man have attested to its
aphrodisiac qualities since the Spanish brought chocolate back to
the Old World.
Cocoa trees thrive in the world's subtropical regions; Latin America and West Africa are the best places to head if you want to visit a plantation. These regions are also famous for coffee and rum… perfect for a hedonistic honeymoon.
Cocoa growing is only the start of the story. As well as plantation get-aways on offer in some of the world's most beautiful and culture-rich destinations, there are some fantastic gourmet experiences to be had in Europe; a fabulous choice for foodie couples short on time.
Much like wine, the flavours of different chocolates depend entirely on the blend of beans used, and where they were grown. From wandering through jungle haciendas to learning to make your own special selection, private tastings and romantic strolls in beautiful cities, find your cocoa bliss-point in one of these ten destinations to get your fix of high quality chocolate.
Sorry Mr Cadbury, the love affair is over.
For a taste of real chocolate exploration, head to the Paria peninsula in north-east Venezuela, where Christopher Columbus first landed in the Americas. The world famous Chuao Plantation (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) on the northern coast grows rare pure criollo beans. Criollo beans produce the finest flavours of the three varieties of cacao grown around the world, and make up 5% of the world's cacao crop. Chuao criollo beans are, reputedly, the world's best cocoa.
As well as chocolate, Venezuela has idyllic beaches, rum distilleries, and amazing wildlife in the rainforests and the Orinoco delta - a great combination for a chilled out , yet exciting honeymoon.
Belize entices visitors with unexcavated Mayan ruins deep in the jungle, a great setting to enjoy and celebrate cacao - the food of the gods. Green and Blacks use cocoa from Belize for their Maya Gold bars, the first UK chocolate product to be awarded the Fairtrade Mark. Discover the world-famous chocolate's origins here in Belizian paradise.
For something feistier, join Toledo's annual Cacao Fest in May to celebrate all things chocolate, from its importance in Mayan culture to contemporary conservation and production in modern Belize. There's live music and dance performances to enjoy.
You can also head out on the Cacao Trail to visit local communities and try your hand at making chocolate.
When the Spanish conquistadors raided Montezuma's treasure chambers, they found precious cacao pods instead of gold, showing just how much chocolate means to Mexico. Head to Oaxaca (in the south of the country) to see the country's cocoa plantations, and to try savoury mole (mo-lay) dishes - a kind of Mexican sauce usually made with chilli peppers and of course, chocolate.
Take time to explore Oaxaco's markets and street stalls, to stock up on some of the world's tastiest (and spiciest) treats.
Although cocoa growing originated in South America, until the 1970s, Ghana was the world's leading producer. Around 30-40% of the world' s total cocoa output came from the eastern region of the country, and it's still the hub of Ghana's cocoa growing industry. Cocoa has been grown in Ghana since the mid 19th century; you can visit the 'original' Ghanaian cocoa farm set up in 1879 by Tetteh Quarshie in Mampong-Akwapim, north-east of Kumasi. There's also the Cocoa Research facility at New Tafo in Kumasi itself.
While you're in Ghana, get face to face with throngs of elephants at Mole National Park, head to the beaches at Busua or Dixicove to partake in a spot of surfing or kick back with a coconut juice and make sweet music with an African drumming lesson.
Cocoa growing on St Lucia is experiencing something of a revolution and the Rabot Estate, owned by British grower and chocolatier Hotel Chocolat, is at the forefront. As well as tours of the plantation, honeymooning couples can stay on the historic estate in one of the luxurious 'cocoa pods' with views over the Piton peaks.
Toast each other with Cacao Bellinis before dinner at the secluded Boucan restaurant dedicated to cacao-cuisine, serving everything from Cacao Gazpacho and Rib Eye with Dark Chocolate and Port Sauce to irresistible desserts. You can even pamper yourselves with cacao spa treatments, from cacao and banana body wraps to pedicures.
If the phrase 'Belgian chocolates' gets your mouth watering, you're in good company. Head to Brussels or Bruges for the country's best chocolates. Both cities have plenty of artisan chocolatiers and cafes specialising in chocolate products where you can watch chocolates being made, sample a few and become a convert.
172,000 tons of chocolate is produced in Belgium every year, from simple pralines and creamy ganaches to more adventurous flavours like sea-salt, chilli, pink peppercorn, fresh ginger and jasmine.
If you love chocolate, London has emporia to cater to your every cocoa related fantasy. Try a 'Chocolate Ecstasy' walking tour of London's finest chocolate shops, or indulge in some retail therapy at small boutiques like Rococo and Artisan du Chocolat (which also offer tastings and courses).
National Chocolate Week (8-14 October 2012) is a great time to visit. As well as tastings, there are various educational events so you can learn more about the sweet treats.
Taste the food of love in the city of romance. Paris, as one of the culinary capitals of the world, has some deliciously unique artisan chocolatiers to tempt your tastebuds. ChocoParis - a comprehensive list of Paris' chocolate and pastry shops - has three walking itineraries covering the best of Paris' chocolatiers, patisseries and tea rooms.
Paris also hosts the annual Salon du Chocolat (the big brother of the English National Chocolate Week, and also held in October), which includes an elaborate chocolate dresses fashion show.
Take the 'Chocolate Train' from Montreux to Broc via Gruyères for a day that combines Switzerland's most famous things - chocolate, cheese and romantic mountain vistas. The trip, on a 1915 'Belle Epoche' era train, includes visits to the castle and cheese factory at Gruyères before visting the Nestlé Chocolate Factory at Broc.
For cultured couples heading Down Under, Melbourne has a sweet tooth and history with the beloved bean. Melbourne's Chocoholic Tours are out to show you, and feed you, the best chocolate the city has to offer in all its guises.
Forastero trees are the hardiest and account for 80% of
the world's cocoa bean crop. It's thought to have originated in the
Amazon, and nowadays you'll find it being grown mainly in Brazil
Beans from criollo trees have more delicate flavours than forastero beans and are prized by the world's finest chocolatiers. They account for 5-10% of the world's cocoa bean crop and are grown in Central America.
Trinitario beans are a hybrid, with the delicate flavours of criollo beans but much easier to grow. They were first discovered on Trinidad and account for the remaining 10-15% of the world's cocoa bean crop - you'll find them mostly being grown in the Caribbean and South-East Asia.
For high quality chocolate, you should aim for chocolatiers who use a minimum of 70% cocoa solids in their dark chocolate blends, and between 35%-50% in their milk chocolate. Sugar is the cheapest ingredient in chocolate; mass producers will use this to bulk out their blends.
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