If you want to treat your kids then there’s one place I’d definitely recommend. At the mention of the word ‘chocolate’ my kids practically galloped down the driveway of the Cocoa Bean Company in Twynholm, Dumfries and Galloway.
Cocoa Bean Soft Play
We rocked up ready for a cocoa rush. You can simply rock up as there’s no need to book. Arriving at 10am our tots played in possibly the biggest indoor soft play I’ve seen. They disappeared for half an hour as we had a coffee. Around 10.30 the place began to fill up, so whilst you can arrive at any time, it was lovely to enjoy relative peace and quiet.
Chocolate Workshops at the Cocoa Bean Company
At 10.30am it was workshop time. The kids were given the cutest purple aprons and blue hairnets. Junior refused to wear his, but Mr Tot Snr happily posed for pics.
Kids go into the workshop on their own, as parents watch from a few feet away through a perspex window. On the day, two young tots refused to be separated from their parents. Junior was one of them. The staff quickly took us through to a Family room for a Family Workshop, they were simply wonderful, and from that point onwards the kids were totally engaged with the staff. I even got Junior into his pinnie.
For £16 the kids get a total creative messy experience with chocolate. It’s quite liberating even to watch. And they get a huge haul of chocolate to take home with them.
Project 1 – Chocolate Dinosaurs
First up, kids choose a mold – we opted for dinosaurs – before coating it with white and milk chocolate using their hands. Much licking of fingers was allowed and even encouraged. Next up, dancing and jumping to mix the chocolates together and coat the mold. The staff were so enthusiastic about getting the kids in the groove.
Project 2 – The Ultimate Chocolate Bars
The kids were then brought melted white and brown chocolate that they mixed together by swirling it around with their fingers. Talk about child heaven! Then identical pots of sweets were used to decorate the bars. And I do mean exactly identical sweets, ensuring NO fights between siblings. Genius. The bars were crammed and rammed with sweets.
Project 3 – Marshmallow Chocolate Fun
Each child was given three giant marshmallows, melted milk chocolate and sweets to create whatever they wished. The chocolate essentially glued the marshmallows together. We walked away with a marshmallow horse with a rainbow tail, and a marshmallow dog without a tail (they were very specific about the tails).
Project 4 – Messy Chocolate Writing
Finally, melted chocolate in piping tubes was introduced. The kids wrote their names on the table, the staff drew chocolate moustaches on their little faces, and they even squirted chocolate directly into their mouths. This is pure hedonism when you’re five.
I can’t stress how fab the staff were, just encouraging playfulness with food, creativity and imagination. They were great with the shy ones and full of praise.
As the chocolate set in the fridge, the kids (unsurprisingly high on a sugar rush) darted outside to play on the vast outdoor play equipment. They discovered a maze like castle (which even confused me as I scrambled through tunnels slightly claustrophobic). There was also a pirate ship, dinosaur and flying fox. The kids definitely let off some chocolate steam.
Café and Gift Shop
The café is quite unusual too. Adults can purchase a range of indulgent cup cakes. A range of ice-cream is available, including ‘Unicorn’ flavour. Edible chocolate bowls bring ice cream to another level. Sensible food and drinks are available too, but if you want the treats to continue then they certainly can.
I learned that I’m often very disciplined when it comes to cooking, and I maybe should be a bit more fun and messy, whether it’s chocolate, cake or soup we’re making. The Cocoa Bean Company was such a fun day out, and it’s a fab venue for a children’s party. In terms of chocolate, the kids nibbled, slurped and licked so much that we took all their goodies away home with us. We’re still working our way through them a month later so you don’t have to over-indulge on the day.
Open 9.00am-5.00pm, seven days a week, private transport is the best way to reach this rural location. (Or consider the Cocoa Bean’s sister company in Glasgow if it’s easier for you.) Prices can be found here. And bear in mind that a range of workshops can be booked, including Adult Truffle workshops.
Parking is straightforward and free. And a top tip is to visit early in the morning. Not only do you avoid the crowds but when we arrived at 10am it was too early in the day for me to crave chocolate. If we’d visited at 3pm I’d have been nicking chocolate from my own children’s tiny little hands.