Globally the chocolate industry employs in excess of 50 million, brings in over 100 billion dollars each year and sees a staggering one billion people across the globe consume the stuff each day. But it’s July 7, apparently, which is the official celebration of everyone’s favourite foodstuff – a nod to the date on which this delicacy first arrived in Europe, some 500 years ago. Here in Cyprus though, it’s December that sees the real celebrations. Because, when the temperatures have finally dropped, who doesn’t want to tuck into something delicious? This weekend, the annual Nicosia Chocolate Festival is back… bigger, better and more chocolatey than ever!
Over the past four years, the festival has become a bit of an institution. Chocolate statues, local chocolatiers, chocolate fountains – they’re all part and parcel of this divinely sweet experience. But few realise the whole thing actually began from necessity when, post-haircut, cardiologist and festival founder Nicoletta Orphanou realised the lack of money was leaving those in need in the lurch.
“In 2013, when I was based in the Paralimni hospital, I saw cancer patients who were suffering dreadfully from the sudden crisis. I wanted to do something to help and, as chocolate and pastry have always been my passion, I decided to launch a Chocolate Festival to help raise funds.” In the event, the first festival saw local cancer charity Aradaphnousa benefit to the tune of more than €4,000 and, four years on, the good work continues… In 2017, much of the festival profits are earmarked for the needy families of children in the Makarios Hospital Child Oncology Ward paying for “tickets for those who need therapy abroad or, in some cases, even the basics, such as food. Being a doctor, this is an issue that’s close to my heart,” Nicoletta continues. “Every little bit helps, and by providing a whole chocolate festival, the public get to really enjoy the experience of giving.”
Experience, she adds, is the key word here. Because while there will be ample opportunities to scarf down everything from chocolate crêpes to chocolate doughnuts, chocolate coated-strawberries to chocolate cake, there’s a lot more to this event than just consumption…
This year, Thermomix will be joining proceedings with a specialised pastry chef demonstrating various recipes and chocolate tempering, and handing out delicious creations. And in the spirit of enjoyment, there will be both a Gravity Room (a three-sided cube with furniture on the wall and a chocolate cake on the table, perfect for ‘flying selfies’!) and a small exhibition. “I’d like people to realise that not only is chocolate about the taste, there’s a whole industry based on this foodstuff. From cocoa trees to the processing and shipping, it’s important to be aware of just where and how your chocolate is made,” Nicoletta explains. “Child labour in the industry has been much in the news of late, and part of what we’re doing here is promoting awareness of Fair Trade chocolate and checking the certifications of certain manufacturers.”
Ultimately, though, it’s the stalls that will be the big draw, featuring everything from Chocolate Balls (far more innocuous than they sound, this revolutionary frozen-then-fried chocolate delicacy comes to us courtesy of two local food technologists and entrepreneurs, who will be bringing their product to the public for the very first time) to Almyro Glyko crêpes, Chocoflow’s five-tier chocolate fountain to Kalopessas’ chocolate Christmas trees and melt-in-the-mouth lava cakes. Younger visitors will thrill to the chocolate-making activities (30kg of chocolate has been commissioned especially for the lollipop moulds!), chocolate stories and chocolate games in the kids’ corner. And those who’ve attended in previous years will be glad to know the chocolate statues – a professional couple from Portugal who have become a real festival favourite – will be returning to hand out treats and posing for photos.
“Our tagline is It’s Time for Magic!,” Nicoletta reveals. “And we’re hoping to bring some of that chocolate enchantment to the 4,000 or so visitors we’re expecting. This year’s Chocolate Festival is going to be,” she concludes, “a truly magical, delicious experience!”
The Nicosia Chocolate Festival
December 9 and 10 from 11am to 8pm at Famagusta Gate. Entrance is €5 (under 12s go free) on the door. For more information, visit www.nicosiachocolate.com or the Facebook page ‘Nicosia Chocolate Festival’