A Review of Christmas at Cadbury World

If you are looking for activities during the school holiday, Cadbury world has put together a whole range of surprises, the shows have been running every week-end since November and you've still got time to catch the grand-finale. Megan Kissane went to have a look and here is what she found:
When Solange invited me to head to Cadbury World in Bournville, Birmingham, to review its Christmas-time festivities, I was pretty chuffed at the idea of free chocolate. Who knew I would end up learning so much about the history of how it came to be, and the process of how it still comes to be the nation’s trademark chocolate?
The Cadbury World experience begins with a walk through a set of rooms called the ‘Aztec Jungle’, full of interesting boards of information and scenes of the native home of the cocoa bean. For example, did you know that Mayan people used cocoa beans as their currency and basis for trade, and were so dependent upon them that they prayed to their god of cocoa, Ek Chuak? And did you know that the Aztec people of central Mexico called the cocoa drink ‘xocoatl’, which means ‘bitter water’? It is no wonder then, that when Sir Hans Sloane was journeying in Jamaica and discovered the same drink, he is reported to have found it nauseating because the cocoa was far too bitter.
 
Miles from the ‘hot chocolate’ we know today, but on its way nonetheless, since Sloane replaced the water with milk to soften the taste and brought his recipe back with him. And so the cocoa bean came to England under Cromwell, but was not valued right away and for over a century it was used by apothecaries as a medicine. Believe it or not, the chocolate drink was a popular cure for a hangover: ‘to settle my stomach’ writes Samuel Pepys in his diary in 1661, after finding his head ‘in a sad taking through last night’s drink’. Who’d have thought?
 
Now enter John Cadbury. Following the Cadbury World tour through a mock-up of Birmingham’s Bull Street in the early 1800s where John Cadbury first opened a small shop, the ‘Cadbury Story’ is then told by a wonderful use of holograms enacting the Cadbury brothers. As a Quaker, John Cadbury disapproved of alcohol, and so started to experiment with coffee, tea and chocolate as alternatives for recreational drinking. Potato starch and sago flour were added to the early versions of drinking chocolates to balance out the amount of cocoa butter. Some manufacturers would add bread dust to their cocoa, but the Cadbury brothers soon gained a reputation for their superior quality, and became leading traders in Birmingham.
Today our Cadbury-stamped cocoa beans come largely from Ghana. It takes five years for the trees to grow to maturity, and once the pod cases are a golden colour (a sign of maturity) the beans are ready to be dried out in the sun. They are then shipped to a factory in Chirk, Wales, and are cleaned, pasteurised with steam, carefully roasted (this is apparently the part of the process which gives them a certain aroma), and passed over vibrating trays to remove the shells. When the vibrating trays appear on screen in this part of the tour, beware: the benches shake along with them. The beans are then passed through a cylinder of rotating blades to make cocoa liquor, which is pressed to extract the cocoa butter, which in turn is again pressed to refine its quality.

Once the water is removed, sweetened condensed milk is added to form a rich chocolate liquid and then evaporated to form ‘the crumb’. The lot is then sent to the Bournville factory to later resurface as fully-fledged chocolate bars. The most important part of the later processes is the tempering, which involves mixing and cooling the liquid chocolate to crystallise the fat in its most stable form. Interesting fact: over 150 tonnes of sugar and 500,000 litres of milk are delivered to the factory daily.
 
Other sections of the Cadbury World experience include passing through the packaging plant (which wraps over 700 bars a minute) and a quaint ride through Beanville (aimed at children, but snacking on a free Crunchie whilst gazing upon little cocoa-bean people never goes unwelcome, surely). More interactive areas include the demonstration area where talented chocolatiers show visitors how they decorate actual chocolate kettles or write someone’s name out in piping. The smell alone could drive any self-respecting chocaholic into a frenzy, and make them pack their bags and move into the factory forever.
A highlight for the family is definitely the Pantomime, held in a marquee by the play area. The story of Aladdin is told in full panto-style, chock-a-block with terrible – albeit hilarious it – jokes. And opposite the marquee is the Essence room, well worth a visit for the cup of melted chocolate everyone gets with a choice of filling to go with it. I got little balls of shortbread biscuit. Delicious.
Essentially, if you are not already convinced, consider this: the Cadbury business was among the very first to care for its workers. The brothers invented a pension scheme, enforced schooling upon minor workers, and were intent upon building a community. What’s not to like?
 
Cadbury will last Xmas performance is on the 22-23rd December- but the site is open all year round- for more information please visit:
www.cadbury world.co.uk

My thanks to Megan Kissane for agreeing to report and to Cadbury World for her complementary pass

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