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The Chocolatarium - Learn, make, taste
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The Chocolatarium
3-5 Cranston Street (off Royal Mile),
city of Edinburgh,
0131 556 7005

The Chocolatarium is an emporium of cacao-themed delights as Lea, and I discovered when we joined an interactive tour one rainy Sunday.

This new visitor attraction just off the Royal Mile is the creation of Jenny McLay, a local, Edinburgh-born entrepreneur and chocolate aficionado.

Our group each enjoyed a cup of the liquid' food of the gods' from guide Anika and then we moved to the 'jungle room' where she explained how chocolate is grown, harvested, fermented and dried. The soil we learn, as with wine, is what gives chocolate its flavour alongside the bean and the environment. So, 'Single origin' chocolates have a distinctive flavour - Colombian chocolate tends towards 'earthy' notes while a Madagascan is more sweet and fruity. There is a wall-mounted flavour wheel explaining this in the tasting room.

Anika also talked about chocolate growers and producers explaining how buying direct results in much better income for them. The Chocolatarium works with retailers who source in this way.

The next part of our journey took us to the 'lab'. Here I enjoyed cocoa nibs from the just-roasted bean. One of our younger tour mates ground some of these beans in a pestle and mortar, and Anika produced cocoa butter with the help of a hydraulic press.

This room also has tables lined with jars of flavourings such as citrus peel, Inca berries, crystallised roses, nibs, nuts freeze-dried raspberry pieces etc. Here you are given liquid chocolate to pour into moulds and then you add the extras. I made a Greyfriars Bobby shaped bar studded with 'Chocolate Spaghetti'.

The history and tasting room is next. Anika mixes an original cocoa drink that the Aztec hero Montezuma would have consumed, cacao powder mixed with chilli, vanilla, cinnamon and cold water. We also try cocoa tea and at least eight different types of chocolate including some 'ruby’ pieces from maker Barry Callebaut, the 'fourth' chocolate alongside milk, dark and white. Half of the craft chocolates originate in Scotland and there are 'Raise Trade' certified bars from Columbia and Madagascar (www.raisetrade.com). Our favourite is glossy, ebony bar from Ghana.

I expect The Chocolatarium to become very popular with tourists, but if you are a local, I would highly recommend it too. There is even a bar of chocolate made with camels milk! (S. Wilson)

Chocolate Tours £16 adult, £12 children. 10.30 am and 2.30 pm Wed-Sun 

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