Know a kid who likes chocolate? (Of course you don’t.) Ok, yes, pretty much every kid will enjoy the newly-opened Choco-Story New York: The Chocolate Museum and Experience with Jacques Torres from the famed master chocolatier in SoHo because, well, there’s lots of free chocolate to be had on site. However, there’s more than a sugar high here for a variety of ages, and for aspiring culinary artists, it’s a chance to see how the chocolate is made, for real. (And even give it a try themselves!)

A Sweet Addition
Jacque Torres fans will be familiar with the location of Choco-Story New York; the mini museum is attached to the Torres cafe location on Hudson Street in SoHo. Accessed by a separate entrance a few doors down from the cafe, Choco-Story New York was created through a partnership between Torres and Eddy Van Belle, the latter of whom is a fellow chocolate aficionado and designer of similar chocolate museums in spots such as Belgium and Uxmal.

photo: Choco-Story New York

Chocolate Through the Ages
The 5,000-square-foot experience tells the history of chocolate, going back, naturally, to the very beginning in all senses. Through a series of small stations illustrated with images and objects (including, in many cases historical artifacts), visitors learn about the cacao bean and the importance of cacao in Mayan and Aztec Cultures.

The exhibit follows the arrival of cacao to Europe in the 1500s, thanks to Spanish explorer Cortes, who learned of the sweet bean from Aztec ruler Moctezuma and exported it home. From there visitors learn about the spread of chocolate culture and customs to countries across the continent and through the centuries.

photo: Choco-Story New York

Bean to Bar Basics
A separate area of Choco-Story chronicles the bean-to-bar journey starting with the cacao tree that originates from the Amazonian rainforest. This section of the museum explains the harvest of the cocoa pods, explores different varieties of beans and follows the fermentation process that transforms them into the sweet stuff.

photo: Choco-Story New York

What’s Cool for Kids
The basic historical and cultural overview presented in the Choco-Story is a tough sell for really young visitors (we thought the chocolate drinking cups from 19th-century Europe were cool; our four-year-old was less impressed.)

However, Choco-Story provides several entry points for kids to experience and learn. A basic scavenger hunt is provided upon entry, and kids can match stickers with symbols at stations throughout the exhibit; a complete and correct board can be presented at the end of the experience to get a prize. (Yes, it’s chocolate.)

Additionally, kids (and adults) can sample blend and single origin chocolates in white, milk and dark varieties, and there’s also a live demonstration of the traditional method of making Mayan hot chocolate. (Warning: kids expecting a sweet Hershey-like treat will be disappointed; it’s bitter.)

Chocolate Playground
For the tiniest of chocolate enthusiasts, the Choco-Story provides a sizable play area, complete with mini kitchen and storefront, train car (transporting giant cacao beans) and a sand pit where they can dig for “artifacts.”

Torres gives a truffle-making demonstration. photo: Eric Vitale

Chocolate: Live!
A final sweet sendoff is a live, truffle-making demonstration, using professional tools and techniques, a show that will engage older kids interested in culinary and pastry arts. (At times, Torres is on hand, as seen above; most often, a trusted student capably mans the kitchen.) Along the way, students are advised how  they can replicate the process in a home kitchen, and it’s concluded by sampling truffles freshly-sprung from professional molds.

(Of course, you exit into the Jacques Torres shop, so there’s more where that came from, literally.)

Make and Take
For those who want to do like Jacques, sign up for the Hands on Experience, which allows participants to make their own chocolate creations which they can take home. (Hands On Experience is by appointment only.)

Choco-Story New York: The Chocolate Museum and Experience with Jacques Torres
Wed. – Sun. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tickets: $15/adults; $10/kids 4 -12; free/kids under 4; Hands On Experience Only: $40; Hands On Experience and Choco-Story New York: $45
350 Hudson St.
SoHo
917-261-4252
Online: mrchocolate.com/museum

Have you visited Choco-Story New York? Tell us about your visit in the comments below!

—Mimi O’Connor