Chocolate lovers in South Florida know about the famous chocolate festival at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens. This delicious event is held at the Fairchild, which is known for its various species of tropical plants, exhibits, collections, sculpture garden, classes and more. But what is so special about this festival? Chocolate! We all love it (okay, there are few that don’t) and are amazed at how versatile ingredient it is as well as a delectable treat all on its own. Before we get into the festival, let’s talk about chocolate for a moment.
Did you know that chocolate was first known as a beverage? According to Smithsonian.org, chocolate was a drink without added sugar. Chocolate comes from the cacao plant. The term “chocolate” refers to any product made from the beans of the cacao plant. It was derived from “xocoatly,” an Aztec word. Historians believe chocolate has been around for at least 2,000 years. In fact, University of Pennsylvania anthropologists discovered cacao residue on pottery found in Honduras dating as far back as 1,400 B.C.E. Chocolate has evolved through the centuries with different flavors, forms and desserts. And we all know about Hersheypark, the amusement park based on Hershey’s chocolate. It was created by Milton Hershey in 1906 and was originally intended as leisure grounds for the employees of his chocolate factory in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The theme park expanded over the decades to what it is today, along with the various products made with Hershey’s chocolate (e.g. Hershey Bar).
Back to the chocolate festival. The festival has become a favorite event in Coral Gables with its many vendors, samplings and activities. There is even a chocolate-scented massage! The food spans a variety of nationalities from Greek to Caribbean. In the garden marketplace, you’ll find chocolate treats, honey, candles and more. Last year’s festival was a great success and featured a large chocolate fountain for dipping various goodies from marshmallow to rice krispy treats and a living history of the cacao and chocolate exhibit. Numerous chocolatiers came out to showcase their chocolate creations from a solid chocolate Buddha statue and “Lego” lollipops to chocolate macaroons and bonbons.
This year’s festival will bring in a great crowd with seasoned and budding chocolatiers eager to show their wares. I highly recommend bringing the family, since there is something for everyone!