When describing attractions on International Drive in Orlando, rarely do adjectives like sophisticated, elegant and educational come up. However, for the new World of Chocolate Museum & Caféthat recently opened up just south of Sea World, it truly fits.
Sure, this is not even close to the first chocolate attraction in the world. There are plenty of factory tours and even entire theme parks that use chocolate as a central theme. However, the World of Chocolate is a first-of-its-kind attraction (that they know of, or me, for that matter) that strives to help guests gain a greater understanding and appreciation for one of the world’s favorite foods.
The tour offered at World of Chocolate goes into extreme depth and detail on how the cacao plant was discovered and originally used. For example, cacaowas used to make a very bitter drink in the early civilizations. Later, it was used to make what we know as hot chocolate before it turned into the chocolate bar we know today.
By far, the highlight of the tour is these massive chocolate sculptures located in a temperature-controlled room within the exhibit.
Each sculpture was handmade by chocolatiers in Austria and shipped via refrigerated truck that was loaded on a ship. The ocean liner then docked in Miami and the refrigerated truck was then driven to Orlando where the crew had to carefully unpack the sculptures and place them into the exhibit.
Chocolate is so delicate that the slightest temperature change will effect it. If the environment is too warm, it will melt. Too cold and the chocolate will become brittle and crack.
Even when they were unpackingand inspecting the sculptures, gloves were needed because their hands and body temperature were too warm and could easily melt the chocolate. If you notice the frame in the chocolate portrait above, the lower part of the wooden frame it sits on is exposed and not covered in chocolate. Even with gloves on, they still melted some of the chocolate from handling it. Rather than recoating it with another layer, they let it stand out to show how fickle this stuff really is.
Without question, the best part of the tour is the finale. Guides allow guests to sample 10 – 12 different varieties of chocolate. Not well-known brand names you’ve probably tried before either. A well rounded assortment of chocolates with varying degrees of intensity from chocolatiers all over the world is available to nibble on.
What gives World of Chocolate a unique advantage over other similar attractions is it does not have a central sponsor, nor is it owned by a chocolate manufacturer. So they must have their own special sauce that they are hoping catches on that is available in the gift shop as you exit, right? Nope. All of the chocolate sampled in the tour and sold in the cafe is selected by the owners and will rotate out on a regular basis based on their discretion and guest demand.
The freedom from big corporate oversight means they can feature desserts made by smaller confectioners around the world that you couldn’t find in grocery stores and certainly not in other attractions about chocolate.
For example, most of the counter space in the cafe features bon bons from around the world. These are selected by World of Chocolate, but are no means permanent features on the menu. Different choices will be rotated in and out every few weeks to showcase smaller independent chocolatiers, so every time you come back, you will have new products to try.
In addition to pastries and various hotand cold beverages, the World of Chocolate’s cafe features what may be one of the most unique desserts I have ever had – the Panini Gelato. Guests choose from one of 10 flavors of gelato, which is then scooped inside a bread pocket that’s basically Hawaiian sweet bread. Then the Panini Gelato is heated relatively quickly in a contraption that looks eerily similar to a waffle iron that warms the bread from all sides.
The result is a very light, but not overly sweet concoction that I can’t even compare to any other dessert I have ever had. I tried strawberry gelato in my panini. The European-inspired cafe is separate from the World of Chocolate attraction, which means you don’t need any kind of admission to drop in and try one of these for yourself. In addition, they offer free Wi-Fi, so if you’re a local, it’s a great place to grab a cup of coffeeor hot chocolate and a pastry in an atmosphere that’s very contemporary, comfortable and relaxing.
In the not-so-distant future, World of Chocolate will offer culinary demonstrations, samplings and even classes from various chocolatiers they bring on for limited engagements. The idea is to provide unique learning opportunities for various groups like schools, conventions and even offices looking for a unique team building exercise.
So if you are looking for a truly sophisticated and elegant experience next time you are in Orlando, drop by World of Chocolate Museum & Caféon South International Drive near SeaWorld. For more information visit www.WorldofChocolateMuseum.com and tell them Theme Park University sent ya!