By Alix Norman
Through the ages we’ve turned to chocolate to cure sickness, appease gods, proclaim love, fete holidays, and even ward off scorpions, producing an industry that now involves over 50 million people around the world. A figure which is constantly growing, along with our consumption of this glorious treat…
The Swiss come in top of the league, consuming an average of 22 pounds of chocolate per year. But other nations are not far behind (the Austrians manage a staggering 20 pounds per annum and, at 19 pounds, the Irish are catching up quickly!). Here in Cyprus, though we may not be at the top of the chocolate tables, we certainly have a passion for the stuff. And, as the third annual Nicosia Chocolate Festival rolls around, it’s time to really indulge ourselves. Because, in 2015, the festival is bigger, better and more chocolatey than ever!
Going by the tagline ‘learn, taste and love it!’, this year’s Chocolate Festival has a slightly different slant. No longer is it just stalls and stands – now, shows, seminars and events abound. “Although there will be about 15 stands, which is slightly fewer than the second festival, there’s still plenty to do, see and learn,” says organiser and founder Nicoletta Orphanou. “The concept is to make the event more of a show and less of a bazaar; of course there’s still lots to buy, but visitors will also be able to learn from the experts, and see various live shows and seminars.”
It will be similar, she explains, to many of the wonderful chocolate festivals abroad, in which there’s a balance between tasting, buying, watching and learning. “At previous events we didn’t have the equipment to host expert seminars,” she says, “but this year the Anco catering company has volunteered to provide the specialised fridges, freezers, and tables required by our expert chefs. For example, one of the shows will feature a well-known pastry maker who will not only be showing people how to fashion a ‘chocolate boot’ but will also be demonstrating methods of tempering chocolate on a table.”
Among other excitements, Nicoletta adds, visitors will be able to see the divine cake-making skills of Annie Ioannides, an expert decorator with an eye for 3D design. “Annie will be giving a seminar on 3D cake design, as well as preparing a tower cake along the theme of the festival. And then, when it’s done, she’ll be sharing it out – hopefully, everyone will get a slice!”
Both shows are set to involve members of the audience (so it might be worth brushing up on your skills; this clearly isn’t just about getting to lick the bowl!), and the two experts will also have stands at the festival where you can buy their spectacular wares. “There’ll be white and dark and milk in all sorts of shapes and sizes,” says Nicoletta. “Plus we’ll also be providing chocolate made with stevia, as we did last year. It’s a real hit with people who need to keep their blood sugar levels steady.” Probably a good idea for the kids then, who will no doubt be going out of their tiny minds with excitement! Especially as there’s a kids’ corner this year, where youngsters can get some seriously chocolatey hands-on experience – supervised, of course – making their very own chocolate lollipops.
“The entire event is perfect for families,” Nicoletta continues. “There will be chocolate fountains, chocolate cakes, chocolate bars… and even chocolate people!” Yes, the infamous chocolate couple – the highlight of last year’s event – are returning to the island specifically for the festival. “They were a huge success,” says Nicoletta, “everyone wanted their photo taken with the ‘chocolate people’ last time, and they’ll definitely be here again!”
With all the shows and seminars (plus the kids’ corner) completely free of charge, the event promises to be the last word in chocolate heaven. But it’s important to remember that there is a serious purpose behind the excitements: your entrance fee of €5 will be going to both the Arodaphnousa Palliative Care Centre and to low-income families in Nicosia. In the past, the festival has helped support the reopening of three rooms at the Centre, with over €4,000 raised at last year’s event. So diary the event right now! Not only will your whole family be benefiting from this magical chocolate fest – someone else’s will too!
Famagusta Gate, Nicosia. December 19 and 20, from 11am to 8pm. Tickets cost €5 (under-12s go free) and can be bought on the door or at specific outlets. For more details on where to purchase tickets and the festival itself, visit www.nicosiachocolate.com or the Facebook page ‘Nicosia Chocolate Festival’