I was quite excited when I first noticed the Chocolatarium museum in Edinburgh. I mentioned it on my food tours, but I knew I needed to visit myself. Now that I’ve been, I can definitely recommend it as an awesome attraction in Scotland’s capital.
A Short History of Chocolatarium
There are quite a few chocolate museums around the world, many of which are dedicated to specific brands – Hershey’s Chocolate World, Cadbury World, Lindt, etc. A couple years ago, I visited Chocoversum in Hamburg, which I considered one of my favorite museums in the world.
Chocolatarium is the brainchild of Jenny, a world traveler and entrepreneur. She started her chocolate museum in 2019 on Cranston Street, just off the Royal Mile. There weren’t any tours during the pandemic, but they’re back on now. Although the premises isn’t large, they manage to squeeze a complete tour into the space.
Taking the Chocolatarium Tour
Vanesa and I arrived a couple minutes early for our 3:30 tour. We honestly didn’t know what to expect but we were excited. We’re both chocolate lovers. Our guide greeted us at the door, checked us in, and invited us to leave our bags and jackets in a small room with lockers and a coat rack.
With four other couples and a group of five ladies, we made our way into the second room. The walls were covered in photos and infographics depicting the full process of chocolate production, from the farmers all the way through to packaging. In the front of the room was a small cacao tree. The museum regularly receives samples of cacao pods to show visitors. Unlike at Chocoversum, we didn’t try the raw pods, which I was fine with as they’re not exactly pleasant.
As the tour started, the guide brought out samples of chocolate fondue for everyone. The chocolate they have is definitely premium grade, although we would learn more about why it was so good throughout the tour.
Our guide went into quite a few details I had no idea about. I don’t want to spoil the tour, but I was shocked to learn that 90% of cocoa beans come from small family farms consisting of nearly six million farmers! Each tree only produces about 5 pounds of cocoa per year, so it’s a lot of hard work.
This was the part of the tour where our guide became quite passionate about single-origin chocolate, as well as the organizations helping to empower chocolate farmers – Fairtrade, Raisetrade, and Direct Trade. I knew about Fairtrade, but not the latter two. In a nutshell, the farmers only net about 6.6% of the income from chocolate sales, and many farmers earn less than $1 per day.
Making Our Own Chocolate Bar
The next stage of the tour mirrored one of my favorite parts of the Chocoversum tour – making our own chocolate bars. Each group could choose between milk and dark chocolate, and we also had numerous mold shapes to pick from. There were fewer toppings than at Chocoversum, but the set-up was much more sanitary, with each group having its own batch of flavors instead of a general display for everyone.
I loved how some of the molds were Scottish-themed – hairy coos, thistles, the Scottish flag, etc. I went with the Loch Ness monster design. My bar was dark chocolate, flavored with honeycomb and sea salt, plus a few raspberry flakes in the monster relief. Vanesa went to town with numerous flavors in her milk chocolate bar.
Finally, we were led to the final stage of the tour – the chocolate tasting room. Here, we were given more information about different single-origin chocolates and how each country has a unique flavor. We sampled four unique chocolates from Venezuela, Peru, Sao Tome, and Belize. It was interesting how different each country’s chocolate was.
The tasting room also had an awesome display of chocolate samples, separated into plain darks, flavored darks, plain milks, flavored milks, and white chocolates. The samples represented most of the unique chocolate bars crafted or sold in Scotland. I saw most of the other guests picked four samples each, so I felt a little guilty when I ended up with eight samples.
Overall, I absolutely loved the tour. The few rooms in the Chocolatarium are a fraction of the size of Chocoversum, and they don’t have the capacity for large machinery and displays, but they still touch upon every part of the chocolate process and they have smaller machines for demonstrating every stage. I felt this tour was much more intimate and fun.
So Many Chocolate Bars
After the tour, we entered the gift shop with a massive display of chocolate bars. Each had had a sample in the previous room, so we already knew which ones we wanted to buy. Surprisingly, most of the bars were priced at cost, ie the same as you would pay at other locations in Edinburgh where these bars are for sale.
Vanesa and I ended up with three of our favorite flavors based on the samples we’d tried. Vanesa’s favorite was the lemon and poppyseed white chocolate, and we both shared the Cornish sea salt and lime as a favorite. Both of these bars are made by Seed and Bean, an organic chocolatier based in England. I also picked up a bar of goji and coconut by Conscious Chocolates, which I didn’t even realize was vegan until after purchase.
The gift shop had many other chocolate-based items available, including hot chocolate, bonbons, Christmas items, and even full chocolate-making kits. And nearly everything is organic, Fairtrade, locally-produced. It was a struggle not to purchase far more chocolate.
Booking a Tour
Tours of the Cholocatarium are available every day. There are between four and ten tours each day, depending on the day of the week, although many tours are sold out. Most of the tours are between 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., but some days have earlier or later tours (specifically on the weekend). The tour lasts about an hour and a half, although our tour ran a few minutes over.
Tickets are £19.50 per adult and £12 per child. Children must be 6 years or older. You don’t need to bring anything with you on the tour, except a camera and a love of chocolate. As mentioned, there’s a room where you can leave your coat and bags.
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