Dr. Srutimala Duara
We were in Birmingham with Dr. Karuna Sagar Das and his wife Rumee when we first heard about a place called Cadbury World. They had not been there, but had heard that it was a place worth visiting. I thought it would just be a factory where chocolates were being made and they would show us the technique of making chocolates. Initially I wondered if the entry fee of 14.50 pounds was worth spending, after all pounds are dear to us rupees people. Nevertheless, being a lover of chocolates, I decided to give it a go. And, don’t we all refer to chocolates as Cadbury as if all chocolates are Cadburys? We hardly think of it as a brand. So, why not find out about the famous brand that gave all chocolates its name? And I made the right decision, for I found out that Cadbury World is not just showing you how Cadbury is being made but a unique exhibition devoted to the fascinating story of chocolate and how it came to be regarded as one of the world’s greatest pleasures.
When Karuna Das’s daughter, Pranamee dropped us at the Cadbury World I did not think that we would take 3 hours to see it. With a map indicating things that we would find inside and a gift of two chocolate bars each at the entrance, my daughter Raginie and I set off through a door that soon made me feel as if I was Alice in a Wonderland – this wonderland was a land of chocolates. It tells the story of chocolate through 14 fantastic zones, starting with the Aztec Jungle and ending at a wonderful playground.
We began our journey in the Aztec Jungle, encountering the civilization of the ancient Maya, where chocolate was first discovered. We found ourselves in a dimly lit jungle with strange trees, sound of insects and birds, figures of strangely dressed humans. Here we discovered how 3000 years ago the people of ancient Mexico, the Mayans, first discovered the unusual trees. These trees yielded strange russet red pod-shaped fruits. Within these pods lay clusters of pale beans. The beans were ground up to produce a bitter-tasting drink which they named chocolatl, from chocolhaa, meaning ‘hot water’. This thick liquid was used in royal and religious ceremonies. In the mid 13th century, when the Mayans were conquered by the Aztecs, the Aztecs transported the Mayan’s prized chocolate hundreds of miles away to their own lands.
We proceeded through a door into a chamber where in different screens inside glass boxes with puppet-like figures in various settings that stretched over years narrated and acted how in 1519 Aztec Emperor Montezuma greeted the invading Spanish Hernan Cortes with golden goblets of chocolate. In 1528, following the death of Emperor Montezuma and the defeat of the Aztecs, Hernan Cortes returned to Spain with the chocolate secret. In 1615, chocolate reached France as part of Anne of Austria’s dowry. She was the Spanish princess who married Louis XIII. In 1644, the Mayor of Madrid attempted to ban chocolate. In 1657 chocolate was advertised in Britain for the first time. Samuel Pepys drank it to cure his hangover after Charles II’s coronation. In 1724, Dr. Richard Brookes publishes ‘The Natural History of Chocolate’, praising its nutritive powers.
Then we were in another room with a big screen, where we listened to the heritage of Cadbury narrated by John Cadbury and his sons, Richard and George with scenes shown in slides. They told us about the formation and subsequent growth of their family business. John Cadbury set up shop next door to his father’s store in Birmingham, selling tea, coffee and his exotic new chocolate drink. Created from blocks of chocolate, which were scraped into a saucepan and mixed with hot water, his drinking chocolate began as a useful sideline for his wealthier customers. From these earlier beginnings in the 1820s, within a single decade, John Cadbury’s chocolate business had grown so quickly that he was forced to rent a small factory to produce his cocoa nibs. After John Cadbury’s retirement due to failing health, his son George travelled to Holland to acquire the revolutionary new Van Houten chocolate press, an ingenious machine that gave Cadbury chocolate a superb purity. By 1879, the Cadbury brothers established a new factory in the countryside and named it Bournville.
In quite a witty show, once again in another chamber that had a very big screen, we were shown the making of Cadbury Dairy Milk. We were taken to Ghana where the chocolate trees are grown, nurtured and how beans are taken out from the pods. As the beans were shown being roasted, the room too turned red, as if we were the beans! A little heat too was generated. Then, as the beans were shown being broken down into small pieces known as nibs; our seats too moved from side to side in quick jerks. But for those who were not comfortable with these effects they could sit at the back bench where there were no jerks. The nibs are now milled together to form a thick liquid known as ‘mass’. The cocoa mass is then pressed to remove the cocoa butter, leaving cake, which is used to create drinking chocolate. But Cadbury Dairy Milk is made by mixing full cream milk and sugar with the un-pressed cocoa mass, then drying the rich creamy liquid to create milk chocolate crumb. The crumb is then blended with cocoa butter to make Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate.
(Photo Courtesy: Author)
We then stepped into a Bean mobile car and enjoyed a gentle ride through a Cadbury chocolate wonderland filled with familiar characters. It was simply a world of fantasy where chocolates come to live. Pictures of us were taken as we were asked to smile at a parrot when we were cruising down the chocolate wonderland. Stepping out of the car I collected our picture at a counter for 6 pounds – couldn’t resist the temptation!
We then followed a specially created route through the Cadbury packaging plant. We had a glimpse of the wrapping and packing process as Cadbury products whizzed down the chutes, ready for the counters around the world. We saw workers moulding chocolates into different shapes – huge footballs, high-heeled shoes, rabbits, and other interesting figures. We were offered free glasses of hot liquid chocolate that came out of a tap. And I was not the only one who had two glasses! Liquid chocolates running down a big long pipe was like a scene out of this world! We were even asked to write our names with chocolate as the ink in a cone!
We then entered another zone called ‘Purple Planet’. It is a state of art exhibition, where one could interact. Kids were standing in front of a screen and posing. Like a child I stood in front of a screen while my shadowed figure was reflected on the screen. I gave a pose and the hidden camera caught my childish pose. Slowly my shadow peeled revealing me as a chocolate figure. I grinned at Raginie – I am a chocolate!
We walked out into the Cadbury shop that displayed all kinds of Cadbury chocolates – bars from the tiniest to huge blocks, various shapes of chocolates including the shoes, balls and rabbits we had seen in the factory, gift boxes, and what not. We went crazy picking up chocolates, forgetting about the weight that we would have to carry back to India.
Then we stepped into the Bournville playground. It is actually for children. Nevertheless, we went to watch a show for children and it was again about the making of chocolates but here it was shown in a way little children would understand and find it amusing. In a very comic way, we were shown how the two Cadbury brothers put the chocolate mixture into a machine and a bar jumped out from it. They tasted the bar and found something lacking. They did not know what it was. They tried again and again but were not satisfied with the result. Then their lady house-keeper/secretary felt that they needed something to drink in order to refresh their minds, and she brought two glasses of milk. Suddenly, one of the brothers, after taking a sip from his glass had a brainwave. Taking the glass out of his brother’s hand, he poured the milk from the two glasses holding them in both his hands and when the chocolate jumped out of the machine, they sniffed at the bar and smiled; it was simply wonderful. Hence, the legendary milk glasses as logo on the Cadbury Dairy Milk cover.
We went to another spot called ‘Essence’. There we were again offered liquid chocolates, but this time we could choose our ingredients like marshmallows, jelly babies, crispies, and I chose crispies. Two spoonfuls of crispies were put in a glass for me and then warm liquid chocolate was poured over it through a tap from a stout pipe. By this time, I was too full, so was Raginie. Rich liquid chocolates filled our tummies, coated our tongues!
Though not many visitors went to see the Bournville village, I made Raginie come with me along a narrow path to the village. Here the workers of Cadbury factory lived. Everyone is associated with the world of Cadbury here. The houses were like out of a picture postcard.
I was so fascinated by this experience that with my husband and son I visited Cadbury World once again. I wanted to enjoy the thrill of this world through the eyes of my son.
(Photo Courtesy: Author)
It was an astonishing journey of discovery, intrigue and romance, beginning thousands of years ago with the ancient civilization of Mexico and ending in the 21st century, where, at least for a chocolate lover like me, is impossible to imagine a world without the joys of chocolate.
[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Publisher.]