16 Dec

Chocolate Museum — delicious AND informative

For those following along at home, I belong to 12×12 — twelve quilt artists who are embarking on an art challenge together. Our current challenge is Chocolate! For research purposes I went to the Chocolate Museum in Köln yesterday — an odd architectural mix between 19th century factory and glass tour boat. We won’t dwell on the rather frustrating morning getting there, because I got the research I needed, and took a few photos for my fellow 12ers in case it sparks anyone else’s creativity.

The museum starts with the harvest of cocoa and many of the uses of cocoa products. Having been there before, I breezed through this section. Especially since everyone has already found this kind of information online. I must say though, that the museum was quite diligent in explaining many of the problems with cocoa production that occur so often when industrialized countries exploit the resources of developing ones. They have a small “rain forest” inside an atrium as well, which is neat if you’ve never seen an actual cocoa plant.

African boat used to transport cocoa beans in the 1950s

From the tropics, the museum moves on to the mechanics of manufacturing chocolate. Of local interest is a certain Herr Stollwerk, from Köln, who was a bit of a mechanical genius and made many improvements to the manufacturing process, at least quadrupling the output of previous machines. Stollwerk is owned by Sarotti and I assume that because it’s from Köln is the reason the museum is located here.

Older machine (I forgot it's purpose)

This stacked grinder not only processed over four times more chocolate than it’s predecessor, but took up much less space as well.

Stollwerk grinding machine

After the historic machines, one enters a glass hall filled with modern machinery. You can follow the beans through roasting, grinding, mixing, tempering, molding, etc. It is in this hall that the little chocolate bars you are given with your entry ticket are made. Start to finish. They also make some nice truffles as well.

On-site factory

At the end of the “factory” is a cocoa bean shaped chocolate fountain where a nice employee hands out wafers dipped in the chocolate. Mr. Wonka would be proud.

Chocolate on the Rhein

On display are some historic molds like this carved one,

Kölner Dom chocolate mold

and these metal ones.

Not limited to bunnies and santas

Which, leads to modern molding, like this one that looks like a carnival ride for molded chocolate. The liquid chocolate is being spun to distribute evenly in the molds and, I believe, cools/tempers at the same time.

Carnival ride for chocolate santas

Since it’s Christmas, and it was a Saturday, and maybe because there was a bajillion bus loads of tourists there, they had some extra demos as well, like this lady hand-wrapping a ginormous Lindt chocolate Santa.

Ginormous chocolate santa being wrapped

Now that we know how chocolate is made, the museum steps back in history to the “discovery” of chocolate in Mexico and South America. Again, this is stuff that can be found on the internet, so I just took a picture of a few ceremonial ceremonial Mayan cups that could have been used for chocolate.

Ceremonial Mayan cups

The next photo is blurry, but these pieces were definitely used for grinding, pouring and frothing chocolate.

Mayan chocolate accoutrements

From ancient Mexico we move on to what I had come for — the culture surrounding chocolate in the European courts.

On the acoutrements themselves:

“The pleasure of drinking chocolate — a pastime initially confined to the European royal courts — was a social activity for which even special dishware was designed. The hot chocolate drink was considered an exclusive beverage and therefore did not experience the widespread acceptance nor the popularity that coffee and tea enjoyed in Europe during the 17th century [hence comparably fewer vessels were produced for drinking chocolate].

[Those vessels that were made for chocolate were however, practical.] In the 18th century hot chocolate was a foamy beverage, and in order to prepare it, the chocolate was heated and whisked with water until the cocoa butter turned into a tasty foam on top of the liquid. Because the sides of the cup were so tall and the diameter so small, the foam was able to climb to the top leaving enough hot chocolate in the bottom. Similar practical considerations influenced the development of the chocolate pot. …the porcelain serving pots were heated to such an extent that it became necessary to attach wooden handles to them. …pots were made with a stirring hole in the lid which was usually capped with a metal seal. Hot chocolate was often times poured into deeply shaped saucers. By swirling the saucer, the hot chocolate was cooled and then subsequently drunk. Another element of curiosity relating to hot chocolate were the so called ‘en trembleuse‘ cups. These cups came in different forms…[designed with rings] to ensure stability so that the cup would not quiver when ladies of the upper class sitting in bed sipped on hot chocolate during her morning audience.”

simple Chocolate pot

“The hard working middle class claimed coffee to be a stimulant. Hot chocolate, on the other hand, earned the reputation of being the drink of those enjoying sweet idleness. Just by the fact that one was enjoying a hot beverage, a certain affluence, or at least a kind of extravagance was reflected.”

“Around the beginning of the 18th century, particularly in the German region, a distinctive secondary attribute was associated with chocolate: some medical doctors proclaimed it to act as an aphrodisiac. This belief was amorously portrayed in the artwork of the 18th century in which chocolate was incorporated into an erotic setting.”

(Sorry, no examples were given, and I didn’t want to search too deeply on line for fear of the spam that would follow.)
Eventually, through improved manufacturing processes and increases in supply and demand, chocolate made it to the masses, and into the bar forms we are familiar with today. The museum is chock full of historic packaging and advertisements.

Did you know that the Christmas sensation of 1903 was chocolate records made through a joint project of Thomas A. Edison and Stollwerk chocolate? Each chocolate record played 35 seconds of a song or story and then could be eaten!

Chocolate records

As I had hoped to, I also read some very amusing anecdotes about chocolate plus recipes for it’s medicinal use. Like stregthening your lungs with chocolate, island moss, and dried orchid root. Many of the same, and similar, in English, can be found here at the Chocolate Health Book.

Recipes for medicinal chocolate

I’m not going to share yet the one I was remembering from a previous visit as it is the basis for my 12×12 piece. However, I also liked one from Roald Amundson who was dangerously low on food during his South Pole expedition of 1929 and rationed with the following menu: a small piece of chocolate melted in hot water and two Zweiback toasts for breakfast, a cup of soup for lunch, and the hot chocolate and toast menu again for dinner. Although he admits it is not the optimal nutrition, he was astounded by the fortification the chocolate did give.

Here’s an excerpt from what one poet had to say about chocolate:

“’Twill make Old women Young and Fresh;
Create New-Motions of the Flesh,
And cause them long for you know what,
If they but Taste of Chocolate.”

By Don Diego de Vadesforte, a.k.a. Capt. James Wadsworth, in Chocolate: or, An Indian Drinke.

On to “The Cult of Chocolate” where chocolate as a cultural icon and door to periods and experiences in popular life is explored. kinder Schokolade definitely says German childhood to me. Look how little it’s changed over the decades:

less sugar + more milk = healthy?

And if you looked under the beds of many European kids, you’d probably find this Überaschungseier detrius:

Surprise eggs goodies

In addition, Swiss children apparently think that lavender is a perfectly natural color for a cow (my photo wasn’t as good as going directly to the source).

And, let’s not leave out a family favorite at my house: Nutella.

Yummmmmm, Nutella

They had a box of Halloren Kugeln as well, but not the classic ones, fashioned after the buttons on Halle’s salt miners’ suits. Despite salty historic references, these creamy chocolates are delicious!

Terry, I imagine you’d love the hall of enamel signs as much as I do.

Enamel sign for Sarroti chocolates with Moor mascot

Stollwerk: inexpensive, full flavored, nutritious

Lindt-Sprüngli Swiss chocolate ad

I wanted to rip them all off the walls and take them home. The museum would do well to reproduce a half dozen of their collection as postcards — do you hear that museum directors?! I want vintage sign postcards, not more views of the Kölner Dom or little enamel signs for “Harley Parking” in the gift shop.

Speaking of the gift shop:

Gift wrapped truffles

One of my favorites, Asbach Uralt chocolates

I was a bit disappointed that most of the items in the gift shop were chocolates that I could buy at the corner store, but that’s what I get for living in a country that’s one of the world’s largest consumers of chocolate! I almost bought a book about the history of Stollwerk/Sarotti chocolate and it’s mascot, but it was in German, and I wasn’t confident I would be THAT into it after this challenge. I did come home with some eggnog-filled and mulled cider-filled chocolates and an assortment of truffles.

As a reward for reading through this essay, please go out and treat yourself to some fortification in the form of a really nice chocolate — over three centuries of chocolate history say it’s OK.

10 thoughts on “Chocolate Museum — delicious AND informative

  1. any man who quadruples the production of good chocolate is a friend of mine 🙂
    i like purple cows too – i am still kicking myself for not buying the purple milka cow (that moo-ed) at the local gas station in Soest-Muellingsen

  2. I visited this museum, too. of course, for research only! one fine day I want to write a thriller which starts with the victim’s meaty calves sticking out of the fountain.
    after all, I’m glad I don’t like sarotti-stollwerck-chocolate and didn’t buy any souvenirs.

    but show me the way to the next milka museum…..

  3. Oooh — yummy! Thank goodness we have a wonderful confectionary here in town. Hand dipped chocolates year round. I think I need to make a trip after reading your post!

  4. As I was reading this whilst eating my mother in last’ millionaire shortbread I was glad of the endorsemet for my gluttony at the end. However I can’t see any of your photos. Bah! Is it me or your site do you think?

  5. ooooh… temptation! i shouldn’t have read this. or seen this. now i need some chocolate.
    those sings are wonderful. i have several of those old-school signs hanging in my kitchen and the upper floor – but none with chocolate. think i need to go there and get me one ^-^

  6. our cows are definitely purple as well 🙂
    and each care package that crosses the Atlantic going stateside has to contain at least some Milka, Kinderschokolade oder Kindereggs.. lol.. sometimes Toblerone, too.. hmmm.. yummy.. lol

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