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Friday, November 27, 1998 Published at 11:28 GMT


Sin in silver foil

It comes in small packages, some say its better than sex - and this weekend hundreds of experts will gather in London to talk about it.

The first International Festival of Chocolate in the UK is taking place just as the chocolate industry gears up for its busiest season.

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Event director Nick Field said: "There are chocolate festivals in Europe - but there has never been one in the UK before, and that's surprising because the UK is the third biggest consumer of chocolate in the world."

The reason why so many of us draw comfort from chocolate is because it contains the stimulant phenylethylamine which acts on the brain to produce a feeling of wellbeing in the same way that sex can.

So what delights can the average chocoholic expect if they enter the hallowed halls of cocoa?

The organisers promise that the festival will offer every sort of chocolate you can dream of, from the humblest bar to the finest hand-made truffles.

There will also be tasting sessions, cookery demonstrations and a special bar offering hot and cold chocolate drinks.

On display is the largest chocolate bar in the world and at 9.5 ft long it weighs in at more than a ton. In fact, the bar was destined to feature on ITV's This Morning show - but turned out to be larger than anticipated and could not fit onto the set.

Visitors can admire large abstract chocolate sculptures which are being carved over the weekend by students from the Royal College of Art.

On Sunday they will be up for auction and all the money goes to charity - so a real devotee can take home enough chocolate to last a lifetime and still feel good about it.

There is also an opportunity to expand your mind as well as your waistline with lectures on the history of chocolate from its ancient origins in the Maya and Aztec civilisations of South America.

Not surprisingly the feast of fun is mainly aimed at women because they tend to eat far more chocolate than men.

"There are men who are wild about chocolate too," said Mr Field, "but they do tend to be fairly outnumbered by the women."

Those worried about the extra inches should not be too concerned according to the organisers. They've arranged for representatives from Weight Watchers to be on hand to reveal the secret of how to eat chocolate and still fit into that Christmas party dress.

The International Festival of Chocolate is at Royal Horticultural Halls, London SWI from 27-29 November.

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