The Sweet Side of Hamburg

The city of Hamburg means the harbor, bread rolls with fish – and chocolate! On December 4 a new exhibition devoted solely to the all-time favorite sweet opened its gates to the public. Located on the edge of the Speicherstadt (Hamburg’s historic storehouse district on the waterfront) the Chocoversum tries to reach visitors of all ages through its interactive design: At about 30 different stations visitors can observe, touch, hear, smell and – best of all – taste the different stages involved in the production of the “brown gold”.

After visitors have learned about the very first steps of chocolate production, including cocoa tree production, as well as the harvesting, fermenting, and drying process of the cocoa beans, the exhibition takes you further to a section dealing with cocoa bean transport. Cocoa beans – which are mainly produced in the equatorial regions of Africa and South America – are often transported through Hamburg, since Hamburg is one of Europe’s main ports for importing cocoa. When the beans have passed the quality check they are ready for the next step towards becoming a tasty bar of chocolate: the roasting. “This is one of the most crucial procedures in chocolate production,” says Jobst Rehmert, one of the Chocoversum‘s so-called Scouts. He operates a small roaster and hands out samples of roasted and unroasted beans to visitors. “Can you taste the difference? It is the roasting that brings forth the typical cocoa aroma that we need.”

The exhibition’s next section is surely one of the most interesting ones, since all remaining steps of chocolate production are demonstrated using fully functional machines from an actual chocolate factory. „Some of these machines were built in the 1930s” Rehmert explains. “Today the machines are a bit larger, but the main principle of chocolate production is still the same.” Two round granite stones grind the cocoa powder and blend it with the sugar that is added. Depending on the desired type of chocolate, different amounts of sugar, cocoa butter, and milk powder complete the list of ingredients. But before the chocolate mass can finally be transformed into bars it has to undergo the process of conching. Here, the chocolate is agitated for up to 72 hours. Rehmert explains: “The particles become so small that they can no longer be detected by the tongue. This is why our chocolate tastes so smooth.” Countless interesting facts about the different facets of chocolate production top off the exhibition’s multi-sensory experience and make the Chocoversum the place to go for those who want to see (and taste) the sweet side of Hamburg.

The Hachez Chocoversum (Meßberg 1, 20095 Hamburg) is open daily from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm; admission is 9.50 EUR for adults.