We are touring through the 2019 International Sweets and Biscuits Fair, held in the German city of Cologne. It is at this fair that we discover delicious Turkish chocolates being offered to global markets. And it turns out that actually, we have so many different types and varieties of chocolates.
A limousine bearing foreign plates comes to a screeching stop after passing a small bakkal (mini-market) in a remote village somewhere in Anatolia. A man wearing dark sunglasses and a suit emerges from the limo, surrounded by bodyguards, and enters the bakkal. He uses sign language to show that he wants some chocolate. The bakkal owner turns down the money offered by this foreign man. The man thanks him and then hands the chocolate through the window of the limo to a lady waiting inside. The woman is so happy to receive it that she takes the necklace from her neck and gives it to the bakkal owner. This fantastic story is actually from a chocolate ad. But what would you say if we told you that there was some truth to this story after all? It is true that chocolate is really one of the best gifts that you can buy for people and the chocolate market and industry is constantly growing and developing. And so we decided that it was time to examine this global sector more closely, which is why we headed to Cologne’s International Sweets and Biscuits Fair last week, or the “Internationale Süsswarenmesse.”
No matter when you go to Germany, the weather always seems cold. And so, it is on a cold evening that we enter a large building, its soft lights falling on the outside world through its many windows. We head right into the hall where chocolates are being sold to the right of the entrance. There are all sorts of chocolates here in every color and type. We aren’t able to figure out which of these chocolates are “halal,” but one of the officials here helps us, and so we wind up sampling the selection while sipping our caffè lattes.
When we next head to the chocolate trade fair, we realize how bland European chocolates really are and how their taste has become really ordinary. Because it is there, by comparison, that we discover the delicious Turkish chocolates being offered up to the global market from Europe. And it turns out that Turkey has so much to offer in terms of variety and taste when it comes to chocolate. We are so happy to discover this; it was like discovering the cacao tree which, 3,000 years ago, only the Aztecs and Mayans grew and knew about. We think about the journeys made back in the 16th century by explorers like Christopher Colombus and Hernan Cortes. And later, the years when chocolate spread around the world from England, and of course, the chocolate that was to find new life in the Swiss Alps; the years when chocolate came to Turkey from Europe. All in all, those years are not so far removed from us. We recall the first time many of us saw those colorful wrapped chocolates in gift packages from Turks coming back from working abroad.
Though chocolate production really began in Turkey around 86 years ago, many fail to truly grasp its true quality and value as a sector. But these days, the number of stands occupied by Turkish chocolate firms at European chocolate related trade fairs is growing every year. And so, chocolate is changing its citizenship once again. We didn’t hear being Turkey mentioned much at this trade fair, but we did encounter quite a few brands of Turkish chocolate that are really gaining many foreign fans. And these firms, which have been exporting chocolate for years now to countries in Europe, are increasing their capacity and quality every year.
This particular trade fair is being held for the 13th time, and we tour all the different sections, including biscuits, snack foods, cacao and chocolate products, candy types, and, of course, the section where regional favorites like lokum and helva are being displayed. It feels almost more like a show world than a trade fair here. Some people are busy shaping chocolate for passers-by to see while others are painting chocolate or offering up delicious hot chocolate for tasting purposes. There are also stands where the famous Turkish lokum is being cut expertly, while others are cutting stacks of biscuits or offering up baklava. There are foreigners making deals with Turkish firms here and just a lot of activity in general. We almost feel as though we are visiting neighbors at bayram, such is the abundance of sweet offerings. The traditional and vital Turkish custom of offering up something to eat or drink, alongside some friendly conversation, reminds us once more where the saying “Let’s eat sweets and have a sweet conversation” comes from. And so, with this in out minds, we bid farewell to this mouth-watering trade fair and all its sweet offerings.