Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published April 28th 2013
'Is there any food better than chocolate?'
Back in February I heard about a Chocolate Museum that had newly opened in Brixton, and was excited to go and see it. Their website said that exhibitions would start to run in March, so I decided to wait until then, so that I could benefit from the full experience. But as March came along, I realised that Easter was early this year, and that my Mum had given up chocolate for Lent. I thought she would like to come, and did not think it fair that she would not be able to try anything. I therefore put it off for another month.
Once we did get round to going, I was quite surprised to find that it was not really a museum at all, but a small cafe with a display in the basement. I was a bit disappointed that I would not be able to take a long glorious trip through the history of chocolate, but I still enjoyed the brief 'outing' that it offered.
It's the Milky Bar Kid
The 'museum' was mainly a wall of billboards detailing interesting facts and figures. For example, did you know that Europe consumed 49.3% of the world's chocolate, with Brits eating about 9.4kg each per year? This is significantly higher than the 6kg that Australians get through, and the 20.2% consumed by the USA. In contrast, Africa grows 71.4% of the world's cocoa.
King George had his own box of chocolates
There are three types of cocoa beans; Criollo is of the highest quality, and is the most expensive due to its sensitivity to illness, and therefore harder to come by. Forastero, is the most common, with a robust, bitter taste, and accounts for 80% of the world's chocolate. Finally, there is Trinitario, which is a cross between the two in terms of taste and quality.
Did you know that as well as inventing chocolates, Mayans also made the first cups as well? This is because chocolate only ever used to be consumed as a drink. While most people drank out of coconut shells, King Montezuma used a gold cup.
The Aztecs drank their chocolate foamy, by beating the drink with a wooden rod called a frother. In the 18th century, these frother were inserted into pitchers to make hot chocolate frothy before pouring it out into cups like you would a pot of tea.
Fry's Advertising Posters
The museum went on to talk about the big brand companies such as Cadbury's, Fry's, Nestle, and so on. One interesting piece of Trivia is that Quality Street was named after a 1936 play by J.M. Barrie, and that two of the characters appeared on Quality Street tins up until the year 2000.
After we'd finished in the basement, we went upstairs to see what was in their shop & cafe. The cafe itself did not have very much to choose from: a few hot chocolate selections, chocolate fondant, and a chocolate brownie were about the sum total, so it is not somewhere you'll be looking to go for lunch. Saying that, they're hot chocolate is very nice. The owner gave us both a free drink, and Mum thought it was the best hot chocolate she'd ever tasted. This is probably because it was made from pure cocoa powder, and no added sugar. The owner was selling the powder for £10 a bag, as well as several chocolate bars from her own range, called Melange. What was great, is that she had free samples so that you could taste what they were like. All were lovely, (my favourite being the vanilla & white pepper) but the prices were excessive, even for artisan chocolate. A 100g was £5.50, which is at least pound dearer than the most expensive chocolate bars I have seen before.
The Chocolate Museum is a nice place to visit if you are in the area, but probably not worth going out of your way to see. That is unless of course, you are interested in taking a chocolate workshop. This is the best thing the shop offers. You have the option of either making bars or truffles, which you can paint or model, and there will also be a chance to taste & compare different origin chocolates. The next courses are on the 19th May at 4.30pm and the 29th May at 6.30pm; if you're interested, you can book by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.