World of Chocolate Museum
Bushnell, FL - Events of Thursday, February 26, 2015
As we said in our last post, we have been wanting to get out to do some sightseeing, but the weather hasn't been very nice. It's been cloudy and/or rainy and/or cool and/or windy for most of the past couple of weeks. Therefore, we came up with something to do indoors. Last Thursday, we took a day trip to Orlando to visit the World of Chocolate Museum and Cafe.
We found out about the World of Chocolate through Groupon, which is a website that offers discount gift certificates for various local and national businesses. The discounts include all sorts of goods and services like restaurants, spas, things to do, household goods, home improvement, clothing and more.
The World of Chocolate Museum has displays on the history of chocolate as well as exhibits of chocolate sculptures. The regular admission price is $16.95, but we paid $10 each through Groupon. Admission also includes samples of chocolate from various locations around the world.
We arrived around 12:20. Unfortunately, the website for the museum doesn't mention all tours are guided, and that they start every hour on the hour. Had we known, we would have timed our arrival time a little differently. We had 40 minutes to kill, so we hung around outside a little while (it was cloudy, but it wasn't raining) and we browsed around the goodies for sale in the cafe. There were cakes and tarts, most of which feature chocolate in some form.
There were also individual pieces of chocolate.
While the goodies all looked delicious, we were able to resist because they were all a bit pricey. The cakes and tarts were $5.45 each, and the chocolates were $1.98 each.
The tour started with a short video on the production of chocolate. Chocolate comes from the seeds of cacao trees, which grow in tropical climates. Most of the cacao used to produce chocolate today comes from west Africa with some also being grown in Ecuador, Brazil and Mexico.
Cacao fruits, called pods, each contain 20 to 60 seeds. After the pods are cut from the trees, the seeds (also called beans) are removed and allowed to ferment for 5 to 7 days. This fermentation is what develops the chocolate flavor. After fermentation, the beans are dried and prepared for shipment.
There is archeological evidence of chocolate usage in Mexico as far back as 1900 BC. Crushed cacao beans were mixed with chili peppers and water making a frothy, bitter, spicy drink. Chocolate was so prized by the Aztecs, cacao beans were used as currency.
Chocolate was taken to Europe by the Spanish in the 1500s. At first, chocolate wasn't that popular because the bitter flavor was an acquired taste. Monks discovered the flavor could be improved by adding cane sugar, but they kept the recipes for the sweetened chocolate drink to themselves for almost 70 years.
Once the Spanish nobility found out about sweetened chocolate in the early 1600s, the popularity of chocolate grew and its use began to expand to other parts of Europe. At that time, chocolate was still being used only as a beverage. Chocolate didn't make the transition to its solid form until the mid-1800s.
Today, Switzerland tops the list of per capita chocolate consumption at an average of over 23 pounds per person per year. The United States doesn't even make the top ten list for chocolate consumption. We're down around 15th.
The museum had a few pieces of old equipment used to make chocolate, but they didn't go into great detail on the process. Maybe that's because most modern equipment and processes are proprietary. They did say the processing of chocolate was very labor intensive, and the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s mechanized a lot of the work and made chocolate much more affordable.
Next, the tour moved into the room that contained the chocolate sculptures. The sculptures are solid chocolate, and the largest weighs well over 300 pounds. Although the room is kept cool, the sculptures have a finite shelf life. After 4 or 5 years, the chocolate will dry out and start to crack and will have to be replaced. Although the museum has only been open a couple of years, one of their earliest sculptures has already had to have cracks repaired.
One sculpture we recognized right away was Mount Rushmore from our "home" state of South Dakota. The sculpture is made from milk chocolate with dark chocolate for the trees.
The photo below of Margery looking at Big Ben gives an idea of scale. Incidentally, Big Ben is not the name of the building, the tower or even the clock. Big Ben is the nickname of the clock's bell. The building is the Palace of Westminster, and the tower is officially known as Elizabeth Tower.
The Taj Mahal is sculpted from white chocolate. White chocolate technically isn't real chocolate because it doesn't contain cocoa solids. It contains cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids.
The museum began using advanced techniques on some of their more recent sculptures. They have added food coloring and they airbrushed darker chocolate onto white chocolate backgrounds to obtain shaded effects.
From the sculpture room, we headed to the room we had all been waiting for - the tasting room. There were 9 different chocolates from around the world available for tasting.
Although the chocolate samples were cut into tiny pieces and guests were asked to not to take more than two or three pieces at a time, we could go back for seconds, thirds or even fourths if we wanted. We spent at least 15 or 20 minutes sampling all 9 flavors, some of them numerous times. Paul's favorite was a coffee infused chocolate from the United States, and Margery's was a dark chocolate containing orange and almonds.
After the tour, we browsed some of the chocolate bars for sale in the gift shop.
Although the Industrial Revolution made chocolate more affordable, GOOD chocolate is still pretty expensive. Most of the bars were only about 2.5 to 3.5 ounces, and prices started at around $6 and went up to over $10.
We enjoyed the World of Chocolate Museum, especially the samples. We thought it was well worth it for the $10 Groupon price; but a bit expensive at the regular cost of $16.95 UNLESS you want to become a connoisseur of delectable, specialty chocolate from world-renowed chocolatiers.
From the chocolate museum, we headed back to Blueberry Hill by way of Clermont. There is a barbecue restaurant in Clermont we have been wanting to try, so we stopped there for lupper. Uncle Kenny's BBQ is located in a small plaza off US 27 (accessible via Citrus Tower Blvd.).
We both had a pulled pork plate with cole slaw and potato salad. The pork wasn't real smoky, but it was nice and tender and moist. There were 4 sauces available - original, hot, vinegar and mustard. Original was a molasses-based sauce that was thick and sweet. We both thought the vinegar-based sauce was excellent. It was tart with a hint of sweetness. The cole slaw and potato salad were pretty good, too.
Back at Blueberry Hill, we spent most of the rest of the week and weekend relaxing. We still had some things we wanted to do for which we needed nice weather, and the forecast was finally looking good for the following week.