Simply pass through a huge steam machine making chocolate and you will find yourself on a traditional cocoa plantation in Mexico.
The educational and entertaining Chocolate Experience Center, which takes visitors through the process of creating chocolate from plant to completed product, is now opening in Průhonice, close to Prague.
The Experience Center introduces visitors to the history of chocolate production—and they can even visit a special room meant for cake throwing. There is also be augmented reality installation and chocolate workshops for families with children or corporate teambuilding events.
An investment of more than 200 million crowns by the Czech–Belgian company Chocotopia is behind the creation of the Experience Center. The owners, families Van Belle and Mestdagh, have been preparing the center for two years. “We didn’t want a museum or a boring exhibit full of information,” Henk Mestdagh explained. “We tried to design a program that people couldn’t experience anywhere else.”
“We are especially proud of the room meant for cake throwing,” Henk added. “Visitors will make cakes from semi-finished materials that manufacturers would otherwise throw away, and then they can take part in the sweetest battle in the world. We also organize birthday parties where the birthday boys or girls can prepare their very own chocolate cake with their friends.”
A plantation with parrots and a modern chocolate factory
The new Experience Center shows, in an educational and entertaining way, how ecologically and sustainably grown chocolate gets from the cocoa plantation to consumers.
Visitors to the world of chocolate enter by passing through a steam machine that powered chocolate factories years ago. They will find themselves directly on a cocoa plantation, where they can see how hard the farmers have to work. They will learn how the ancient Mayans prepared chocolate and how the popular treat was made during the Industrial Revolution.
They can make friends with live parrots from Mexico and watch the modern production of chocolate and pralines through a glass wall in the Chocotopia factory.
Chocolate workshops, school program and teambuilding
The biggest hit of the Experience Center is the workshop, where visitors can become chocolatiers and make their own chocolates and pralines. The workshops are tailored to various age groups and are for children and adults. Children’s birthday parties let kids have fun, learn something new, make a cake or other sweets together and enjoy the entire Center. A school program takes place in the fairy-tale film room. A modern conference room makes it possible to organize company and teambuilding events, including a sweet breakfast, workshops, or a chocolate program for all the participants.
The proverbial cherry on top is the World of Fantasy, where children can try augmented reality, meet fairies dipping sweets in a chocolate river, examine a crashed spaceship carrying alien energized sweets and find a pre-historical plantation.
The Choco Ládovna factory shop and an irresistible café
If, during a workshop, the chocolatiers cannot resist and eat their work, the factory shop will come to the rescue. In Choco Ládovna, visitors to the Center can buy fresh chocolate products hot off the assembly line. Or they can take a seat in the café where they can taste hot chocolate and lots of chocolate desserts.
Cocoa beans right from a Mexican plantation
Chocotopia cooperates with its own cocoa plantation, Hacienda Cacao Criollo Maya, on the Yucatan Peninsula. Quality cocoa beans are carefully monitored all the way from the planting to the resulting chocolate bars. No pesticides are used when growing, and the citizens of the local village work on the plantation, taking care of the cocoa plants according to traditional methods. It takes 3 to 5 years before they get the first beans from a newly planted cocoa plant. The actual production of chocolate is also a long and complicated process, and this is precisely what is presented to visitors in the interactive Experience Center.