I will not touch any chocolate again for at least a week, I thought, coming home from a sweet tooth trap in the South of the island, cheerfully chatting with my companions in Japanese. Friends from other countries told me that the now-annual chocolate festival in Hamrun is something you see once. It’s enough. This being my first year in Malta, I used the opportunity to experience this event, as each of its components sounded fun – sweet treats, festive atmosphere, and participation of diverse communities.
The festival merged the concept of a local village feast (with two wirjas, chambers with saints-themed local artists’ works, open) with a marketplace of a specific product. Businesses were using the opportunity to kickstart the maze of Christmas shopping, with Santas and cribs already on display even though it was only October. Although neither Hamrun nor Malta are famous for chocolate production, it was an opportunity for local businesses to show their goods and for people from all around the island to spend some time outside in a pleasant weather, mingle and get high on sugar rush.
There were chocolate candies in ever shape and form, dried fruit in chocolate, chocolate bars, hot chocolate to drink, and many similar products. My favourite and probably the most innovative one was chocolate produced with olive oil.
There were also attempts to take it to a more conceptual level. People with cellphones and cameras assembled around chocolate clocks and drawings, and this person painted something with chocolate on the spot.
Several artists were showing, selling and producing new work without any specific relevance to chocolate. A local scout group created a makeshift ‘chocolate factory’, which raised people’s expectations, but in fact it was just an explanation of the production process. Around it, there were various activities, including a percussion and bagpipes orchestra and small workshops.
Ethnic communities were also present. The Sudanese community, which meets every week in a building on the main street of Hamrun, had a stand with their desserts. Using chocolate chips, community members also built a traditional Sudanese house.
Hamrun is typically considered somewhat rough and associated with the working class. It is one of these relatively affordable places not far from Valletta. That day it was full of raw, sincerely consumerist enjoyment, with a couple of acoustic renditions of Despacito to please the crowds. With each hour, the crowd grew thicker and it became difficult to move around.
The next day a delicious pistachio-lemon bar, made with olive oil, was the only material reminder of the chocolate feast. I should have bought five, I thought to myself, but at the festival itself I was more focused on tasting than buying. I liked it that way – I wish it had been even more about seeing and experiencing. Overall, thumbs up to Hamrun.