Friday, May 24, 2013

Cadbury World

The past 8 years I've spent about a month a year in Birmingham, UK, but for some odd reason I have never visited Cadbury World. Until now. To those who don't know, Cadbury is a British confectionery company - the industry's second-largest globally - and Cadbury World is the closest you'll get to a "live version" of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Cadbury World is situated in Bournville, a model village on the south side of Birmingham, easily reached by car, bus or - like I did - by the Cross-City Line suburban railway. There are signs all the way from the railway station to the attraction, although some of them are hard to spot and if you're a first-time visitor like I was, you have to calculate using a bit of time to actually find the Cadbury World entrance.
Cadbury World is a one-way self-guided tour through the Cadbury universe. I had brought my 14 year old daughter with me and already when we entered, we were handed free Cadbury products, 2 chocolate bars to be precise, and that was probably a good thing as the tour lasted about 3 hours.
Cadbury World consists of 14 zones, the first one being the Aztec jungle where we were introduced to the cocoa tree, the Aztec Emperor Montezuma and the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés.
In the next zone "Journey to Europe" we saw how the cocoa bean made it to Europe and became a high society drink. The journey was cleverly shown in special 3D picture frame theatres.
Next up was Bull Street, a full-scale replica of the original street where John Cadbury opened his shop in 1824. Here a video image of "John Cadbury" introduced us to the next zone, "The Cadbury Story", which took place in small theatre. Video images of John Cadbury and his sons told their fascinating story and it was really interesting, so I hope I'm not going to bore you by retelling it!
In 1824 the Quaker John Cadbury started selling tea, coffee and his exotic new chocolate drink from his shop in Bull Street, Birmingham. His company was awarded the Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria in 1854, but by 1861 his health was so poor that he had to hand the reigns of the business to his sons Richard and George Cadbury, aged 25 and 21. They acquired a cocoa press from a Dutch manufacturer, thereby paving the way for the production of eating chocolate rather than drinking chocolate.

In 1879, the Cadbury brothers needed a bigger factory and instead of looking at another city location, they established "the factory in a garden"; situating the new factory in the countryside, four miles from the centre of Birmingham, in an area which the Cadburys named Bournville. The factory had many facilities, which were unknown in Victorian times, like heated dressing rooms, kitchens for heating food, sports fields and swimming pools. Sports facilities included football, hockey and cricket pitches, tennis and squash racquet courts and a bowling green. Furthermore Cadbury was the first firm to introduce the Saturday half day holiday (five and a half day working week) and were pioneers in adopting the custom of closing the factory on Bank Holidays. Country outings and summer camps were organised, and young employees were encouraged to attend night school and were allowed to leave work an hour early twice a week.
In 1895 George Cadbury bought 120 acres of land close to the factory and planned - at his own expense - a model village for the workers. By 1900, the estate included 313 cottages and houses, 16 houses were built for senior employees and special workers' fares were negotiated with the railway company. George Cadbury pressed ahead with other ideas like annuity, deposit accounts and education facilities for every employee. This was truly visionary.
From the theatre we were led into a multi-sensory cinema where we felt on our own bodies how Cadbury is making their chocolate. It was very funny indeed. From there we went through a room with interactive videos where we learned how the different kinds of chocolates are manufactured, before reaching the packing zone, the only zone where - for obvious reasons - we were not allowed to take photos. We saw how the factory worked and the products were packed and yes, we got even more chocolate bars!
We had now reached "Cadabra"; a ride in beanmobiles through a chocolate wonderland. This was probably the most popular zone of them all with the familiar Cadbury characters on display in different magical, colourful settings.
We still had a few zones left and the next one was the demonstration area where we were able to see the factory workers mould and hand decorate the chocolate. It was very impressive and we even tasted some samples. Then the tour went on to "Advertising Avenue" where you could see lifelike animatronics from Cadbury adds. "Purple Planet" was the next stop; a room full of interactive displays where it rained virtual chocolate and you could grow your own cocoa beans. Very entertaining.
When leaving "The Purple Planet" you ended up in The Cadbury Shop - and the café - and that was a bit annoying as the tour wasn't over, yet, but you had to figure out where to go for it to continue. Again the signs were hard to spot and we even tried to ask one of the staff, but she didn't know!
Finally when leaving the Cadbury World building and following some other tourists we found the next zone of the tour - "The Bournville Experience" - tucked away behind the main building. "The Bournville Experience" was an interactive exhibition about how the village was created and you could design your own village, too.
We didn't see the ghost of George Cadbury, though, and we didn't find the next zone, either. This was the "Essence" zone where you can make your own Cadbury chocolate version, something that my daughter had looked forward to, but we just couldn't find it. Instead we found the last zone, the "African Adventure Play Area", which I'm sure is great for younger children.
All in all both my daughter and I enjoyed our day in Cadbury World. In fact we enjoyed it so much that it's currently our favourite attraction in Birmingham! The signposting could be a lot better, though, as it is difficult for first-time visitors to find both the Cadbury World building and the different zones outside the main building. Especially as the staff don't seem to know the way, either.
Furthermore, I'll have to point out that most Cadbury products are made of milk chocolate (called Cadbury Dairy Milk). The Brits seem to prefer their chocolate sweet and the Cadbury products are VERY sweet, almost inedible to a Dane like me who is raised on dark chocolate with a cocoa content of between 55 and 85%. It shouldn't scare you off, though, as the Cadbury World tour is amazing and interesting even if you don't like the Cadbury products. And to be fair, Cadbury DOES make dark chocolate like their Bournville bar and their Fry's products.
So the next time you're in Birmingham, go visit Cadbury World, but make sure to book your tickets in advance. Visit their website for further information.

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