I don’t know how anyone who loves chocolate as much as I do could visit Hamburg and not go to the Chocoversum unless they just didn’t know about it. I didn’t know about it myself until planning my trip there, Now that I’ve been, I can say it’s one of my favorite activities in all of my travels around the world.
What is the Chocoversum
The average German consumes 22 pounds of chocolate a year – the equivalent of 91 chocolate bars. Most of this chocolate arrives from the tropics into Hamburg’s port. To educate people on Hamburg’s role in chocolate, the Chocoversum Chocolate Museum opened its doors in 2011. Since then, it’s been fattening, I mean fascinating visitors with everything chocolate related.
Of all the museums I’ve been to, this is one of the best. Maybe that’s just because I love chocolate so much, but I also loved how interactive it was. I mean, I don’t think five minutes went by without getting another mouthful of some form of chocolate.
The English Guided Tour
There are up to five guided tours a day in English, ranging from about $13 to $19 depending on the day and how far in advance you book. I booked a tour during my two days in Hamburg. It wasn’t easy to squeeze it in considering how many activities there are within Hamburg, especially during the Christmas season, but thank god I did! If you were only in the city for a day, I’d still recommend this museum, along with Miniatur Wunderland.
The tour went through every step of the chocolate process, starting with the trees in South America and Africa. I was shown the cocoa pods harvested from the trees and the beans inside. I was one of the three lucky guests who got to try the raw bean. It was fleshy and bitter, somewhat similar to a lychee nut. I couldn’t detect any trace of chocolate in the bean, and I honestly don’t know how someone discovered the process to get chocolate from the pod.
The tour went on to show how shipments were made, including inspections for mold and insects, classifying the quality of the beans, etc. I loved how the museum set up the display like an actual dock with a shipping container and provides the instruments used by shipment inspectors.
The next step of the process is the roasting, which starts to bring out the chocolate flavor. This creates what we know of as 100% cacao since no sugar or fat has been added to the mixture yet. We all had a chance to try some of this too, but I was probably the only one who really enjoyed it. It reminded me of chocolate-covered espresso beans.
Finally, we came to the machines that churn the chocolate into its final state. The first machine grinds it down into a thick, crunchy paste, kinda like crunchy peanut butter. This is the phase in which they add sugar and various flavors. The ratio of various ingredients is a trade secret of each chocolate company. This is also where most of the cocoa butter is pressed out of the chocolate, to be used later in the process. Of course, we got to taste this too.
The second machine grinds the chocolate down between steel rollers to an astounding 30 microns (about 0.001 inches). This powder is quite surprising when you eat it, as it basically converts into natural chocolate in your mouth with its remaining small content of cocoa butter. Most chocolate will melt at body temperature, so in your mouth, the powder is just like a good quality chocolate bar after a couple chews.
The last machine does a process called conching and kneads the chocolate with milk, sugar, cocoa butter and all the other ingredients into the final product, whether milk or dark chocolate. The machine was invented by the creator of the Swiss chocolate company Lindt and is how the various European brands (and perhaps a few others around the world) produce such high-quality products.
Making Our Own Chocolate Bar
Perhaps the best part of the tour was the laboratory. Toward the beginning of the tour route, we entered a preparation room where we were each given a chocolate bar mold. We got to choose between milk and dark chocolate, and then had 21 different toppings to add to our bars. Some people got really creative with their flavors. Personally, I went for a two-tone. One side of my dark chocolate bar had espresso beans and crushed amaretti biscuits, while the other side was candied ginger and coconut flakes.
I left my creation in a fridge to cool while the tour continued. The bar was then brought to me at the end of the tour to package up and take home. As much as I love chocolate, it took me several weeks to finish my bar.
Visiting the Chocoversum
You can tour the Chocoversum Chocolate Museum most days of the year. The times vary each day, so you just have to check the website for the day you want to go. The regular tour lasts for 90 minutes, although there’s also a 60-minute tour if you’re short on time, or a longer tour which includes a meal if you’re feeling fancy. If you have the Hamburg CARD, you get a 20% discount on your tickets. I’d definitely recommend getting that card, as it will give you free transport around town too. Also, wearing some clothing you don’t mind dripping chocolate onto…just in case.
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Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary ticket to the Chocoversum on behalf of Visit Hamburg and the Chocoversum Chocolate Museum. As always, all views and opinions are my own. I am not responsible for any obsessions, obesity or overdosing as a result of consuming too much chocolate at the Chocoversum.