Cadbury World, Bournville: Chocolate heaven for human beans

We were all seated before the professor. We guessed he was a professor because he was quite old and wearing a crumpled suit and a bow tie. He was also wearing what appeared to be a shower cap, so no fronds of wild grey hair should escape into the vats of sweet, smooth chocolate.

We were all seated before the professor. We guessed he was a professor because he was quite old and wearing a crumpled suit and a bow tie. He was also wearing what appeared to be a shower cap, so no fronds of wild grey hair should escape into the vats of sweet, smooth chocolate.

The professor (who's actually an ethereal image on a screen) is talking cocoa beans. We are the beans. We are roaring with laughter. We are roasted, then sorted. More laughter.

This improbable process is being carried out on a significant part of the population. Five million people have visited Cadbury World since it opened a decade ago, making it the most popular attraction of its kind in the country. This year three additional attractions have opened, including the professor's explanation of chocolate-making.

Yet the games played by the professor and elsewhere on this sprawling site are simple ones. Cadbury World is not the land of sophistication. It's just that the chocolate makes us light-headed. And there is chocolate at the beginning, in the middle and, if you pay, at the end. After the "lecture" Christopher, six, has chocolate on his mouth and more bars in his pockets. He hands me yet more bars that he has mysteriously acquired as we are launched into the long corridors.

We see a robot loading wrapped bars on to pallets and a human loading bar wrappings on to the machines. Chocolate speeds by in every direction. Other white-clad operatives move about, avoiding eye contact with the happy throngs from outside. I see my children – I think – absorbing the unstated but powerful message, itself well worth the admission price: work hard at school or you'll work somewhere like this. Signs explain that the humans work 12-hour shifts, and, perhaps in a nod to the philanthropic ethos of the Cadbury family, efforts are made to vary their tasks.

We see chocolate being made the "Thirties way" and take the opportunity to sample. We are offered liquid chocolate, to the despair of a harassed mother.

On we march, dutifully, and in order, for despite the huge numbers, the crowds are controlled with Disneyesque precision, from the moment we enter via a tableau of Mayans encountering cocoa. The management stresses that failing to book in advance carries the risk of being refused admission, and the factory tour is not always available. But by the time we reach the excellent museum, the crowds have melted away.

There are some crass exhibits, however. An automated commercial featuring robotised characters masquerading as a "play" delighted Christopher's brother Joe, 11, and sisters Eleanor, 13, and Melora, 15, with its absurdity.

They all agreed, though, that Cadbury World was a great day out. How sweet.

Cadbury World (0121-451 4180; www.cadburyworld.co.uk) is at Bournville, Birmingham. Opening times vary, so call before you visit.

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