Half a million visitors a year head to Europe’s sweetest attraction. Make time for Cadbury World next time you’re in the UK, advises Nathan Jeffay.
By Nathan Jeffay
It’s easy to imagine that if the ancient Israelites were familiar with the cocoa bean, God may have promised them a land flowing with milk and chocolate.
He didn’t, but such a land does exist.
He didn’t, but such a land does exist.
In the English city of Birmingham, a 90 minute train ride from London, the company that popularized modern British milk chocolate, welcomes half a million visitors a year to pay homage to everyone’s favorite confectionary.
And if you are kosher observant and accustomed to foodie attractions where you can look but can’t taste you should rejoice — the London Beth Din regards almost all products made by Cadbury as kosher.
Non-Brits may not grasp just how big Cadbury is — as a cultural institution as well as a brand. But you’ll quickly get the hang of it at this huge visitor center.
As well as the main exhibition there’s an outdoor children’s play area with climbing zones, tube slides and tunnels,
a separate area at a lower level for the under 5s, and a multimedia show. The show consists of two five minute features during which you meet the earnest Quakers who set up the company back in 1824, after which you get to create your own chocolate, with melted Cadbury chocolate and fillings.
The main component of the visit really is a feat of research in to maintaining interest, attention spans, and pleasing all ages. It can take up to three hours — but is so well choreographed that it flies by.
It isn’t an “exhibition” in the conventional sense, but rather a mixture of displays, acted sketches, 3D multimedia presentations, demonstrations of the production process, and of course, tastings. Yet you do learn lots — in fact, Cadbury World was one of the first institutions in the UK to be awarded the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge, recognizing it as a provider of quality, safely managed educational experiences for young people.
For those of us used to family outings where different people circulate at different speeds and everyone loses each other, Cadbury World is brilliant. As you go past various junctures, such as the shows, in batches of around 50 people, you are constantly synchronized with your party. The various components of the experience have been designed to hold the attention of the very young while stimulating the grown ups. There was a 70-year age span in my family group, and both Granddad and toddler daughter loved every minute.
The exhibition begins with a series of short 3D stages where miniature figures give you some of the history of chocolate.
You find out about “chocolate houses” where grown men (women and children were barred) used to gather to drink hot chocolate and gamble, and meet an actress who recreates the atmosphere of these dens of sugary indulgence.
Then an actor introduces the members of the Cadbury family who established the company and made it great. They tell their story and the story of how their chocolate is made in a series of presentations, one of them including special effects such as seats that move as the cocoa breaks are shaken.
You find out how specific Cadbury lines are made, and make your way through a packaging plant, which is often but not always operational, and in to an area where you can see one of the company’s premium hand made products being produced. The place really does flow with chocolate — a kilometer of piping on the ceiling takes it
around. And even after nearly three hours the kids are still on a high. Not just because of their pockets full of samples or the cup of liquid chocolate (the day’s second) but because the whole trip ends with an adorable ride, Cadabra, which takes you on little carriages through a world in which cute cocoa beans are engaged in all sorts
of activities, including skiing.
I always dreamed of visiting Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. This was definitely the next best thing.
While most products distributed at Cadbury World are kosher, some are not. The London Beth Din’s listing of kosher Cadbury products can be found at www.kosher.org.uk