Berlin (chocolate) bars
Chocolate bars from home are the one thing that many people miss. To help out, a new Berlin shop offering chocolate from around the world has opened. We test out its wares.
Something to remind you of home
It happens to every tourist. At some point in your travels, you'd like nothing more than your favourite chocolate bar from back home. Or you wish you could find a Violet Crumble candy bar you tasted once in Sydney but have never found anywhere else since.
Berlin entrepreneur Christopher Engelhardt knows exactly how you feel. He became so desperate for exotic chocolate bars that he has opened his own shop in the heart of Berlin which he claims carries every major chocolate bar in the world.
Want a genuine Australian Violent Crumble bar, the eating of which has been described as biting off a chocolate-covered honeycomb? "It's the way it shatters that matter," goes the Violent Crumble slogan.
He's got 'em for you to shatter.
How about a crunchy English Toffee Crisp or a Cadbury's Double Decker or a King Size Lion bar to satisfy that British sweet tooth?
Or would you prefer something American, say, a peanutty Oh Henry bar, or a chocolaty Hershey's 5th Avenue? Or a South African Rowntree's Bar-One?
Perhaps it's the indescribably aerated experience of an Aireado bar from Argentina?
Engelhardt's answer will not just be "yes", but probably also, "which do you want - peanut or honey-and-almonds?"
Not surprisingly, he calls his store a "chocolate bar" - literally so. "Schokoriegel Berlin Mitte" is the German name for the shop. That means "Downtown Berlin Chocolate Bar".
You can't miss it at Kastanien Allee 55 in the centre of Berlin, if nothing else because the front window is decked out in chocolate bars from all over the world.
Australian violet crumble bar: it just shatters for you
"I've travelled a lot and the first thing I always do when I arrive at an airport or a train station is to buy a local chocolate bar," the 32-year-old university doctoral candidate told Berliner Zeitung newspaper.
"And the most wonderful thing is that chocolate bars are interestingly different around the world," says the Berlin scholar. "In fact, I'd venture to say you can tell a lot about a land and its people judging by its chocolate bars."
Asian chocolate bars are sweeter and more delicate, perhaps less chocolaty. South American ones are rich and dark and redolent of Aztec and Mayan cocoa spiked with chilli peppers.
European chocolate bars are creamy and rich, summoning up images of Viennese coffee houses at the turn of the last century.
And English bars often feature desiccated coconut and ginger and other reminders of a far-flung colonial empire.
"US chocolate bars are possibly the most imaginative ones I've ever eaten," Engelhardt has determined. "Perhaps it's typical of the inventive American spirit and their penchant for risk-taking that they'll have cheese-cake flavoured candy bars or chocolate-garlic flavoured ones."
After all, the Americans claim to be the inventors of the modern candy bar.
Europeans took cocoa from the Mayans and popularised bitter chocolate as a beverage and as a flavouring. Milk chocolate was introduced in 1875 when evaporated milk manufacturer Henry Nestlé and chocolatier Daniel Peter got together and invented milk chocolate.
But it was an American named Milton S. Hershey who envisioned packaging chocolate in hand-held blocks which could be unwrapped and consumed anywhere.
It was at the 1893 Columbian Exposition, a World's Fair held in Chicago, that chocolate-making machinery made in Dresden, Germany, was displayed. It caught the eye of Hershey, who had made his fortune in caramels, and who instantly saw the potential for chocolate. He installed chocolate machinery in his factory in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and produced his first chocolate bars in 1894.
But it was World War I that really brought attention to the candy bar. The US Army recognised Hershey bars as a handy source of high-energy sugar for American Doughboys fighting in Europe.
The American G.I. handing out candy bars to a bunch of kids became a well-recognised image not only in that war but also in the next.
"The rest of the world wasted no time creating their own chocolate bars and the results are wonderful to behold," says Engelhardt, gesturing round the chocolate-laden walls of his shop.
Endeavouring to live up to the "bar" in chocolate bar, Engelhardt also has an array of exotic drinks in stock, most of them carbonated beverages from various countries. Coffee is served to patrons at cushy seats and a wide selection of music is available for playing.
"I don't want just to sell chocolate bars," he says. "I want people to come in and listen to music and hang out."
Christopher Engelhardt's shop is called Schokoriegel Berlin Mitte. You can find it at Kastanienallee 55.
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