I live in Switzerland and have had the luxury of experiencing its culture and tasting many delicious chocolates (maybe a few too many...).
Switzerland is known as the home of cheese, banking, and chocolate. Swiss chocolates are world-famous, as the names Lindt, Toblerone, Läderach, Cailler, and even Nestlé feature in shops across the globe.
In this article, I will explore the Swiss tradition of chocolate making. I will also provide some insight into some of the top Swiss chocolate companies—and what makes them famous.
The Introduction of Cocoa Beans
Cocoa beans were first discovered by the Aztecs, who believed it was a gift of the gods. They referred to these beans as the "food of the gods." The Aztecs used cocoa to prepare a drink called "xocolatl," or chocolate water, which was described as a bitter, salty drink. Cocoa beans were later discovered by the Spanish, who were amazed by its nutritional level and the energy it provided.
From Bean to Bar (a Video from Cailler)
Where Does Chocolate Come From?
Chocolate comes from cocoa beans, which are normally grown within the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn (20 degrees from the equator). The majority of the world's cocoa plantations are located in West Africa.
From these cocoa beans, there is cocoa butter and smaller beans. The butter is used in milk and white chocolate. The smaller beans are normally reduced to cocoa powder, which is used in milk and dark chocolate. A variety of other ingredients are used to introduce or enhance different flavours.
Cailler holds the title as Switzerland's oldest chocolate company, as it was founded by François-Louis Cailler in 1819. François was born in Vevey, a town close to Lausanne (southern Switzerland), which had seven chocolate factories in the early 1800s. After owning a small shop, François purchased a factory in 1820 to produce chocolate on a large scale.
Cailler Chocolate Factory
Cailler's Chocolate Factory accepts visits, where you are guided through the history, get a sneak-peak at the factory, and taste-test a variety of chocolates (best not to eat beforehand and to bring a water bottle!). There is also a shop to purchase a variety of their chocolates with sweet deals.
Address: Rue Jules Bellet 7, 1636 Broc (Switzerland)
Founded by Henri Nestlé, the Nestlé company started off in 1867 as a small business that initially focused on baby formula. In 1905, after joining forces with Milkmaid, the first Nestlé chocolate was made. Later, in the 20th century, they developed more chocolates that are known today. They also branched out into the pharmaceutical industry and acquired Mövenpick Ice Cream, a Swiss ice cream brand.
Which of these chocolate bars do you recognize from Nestlé?
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Chocoladefabriken (Chocolate factory) Lindt & Sprüngli AG, more commonly known simply as Lindt, was founded in 1845 and is famous for its truffles and chocolate bars. The company started off as a small confectionery store in 1836, called Confiserie Sprüngli, and was run by a father and son: David Sprüngli-Schwarz and Rudolf Sprüngli-Ammann. They later acquired Rodolphe Lindt chocolate factory in 1899, and the name was changed to Lindt & Sprüngli. However, it is commonly known simply as Lindt.
Theodor Tobler created Toblerone in 1876 and was one of the first to explore different shapes for their chocolate bars. Their standard chocolate, instead of being a simple milk variety, is a mixture of nougat, almonds, and honey in a bar of unique milk chocolate. Its predominant mountain logo pays tribute to the famous Swiss mountain, the Matterhorn.
Frey is a chocolate brand that is associated with the supermarket Migros. Frey was founded by brothers Robert and Max Frey in Aarau, in 1887 (67 years after Cailler!). The small company gradually expanded until it was purchased by Migros in 1950, and it went international in 1997. In 2012, Frey celebrated its 125th anniversary.
The Frey Chocolate factory accepts visits, where you can learn about the history of the cocoa bean and chocolate, as well as about the company's general production. There is also a chocolate taste-test section, where all different Frey variations can be tasted. There is also a shop to buy your favourites, and a photo booth to get a digital chocolate memory!
Address: Bresteneggstrasse 4, 5033 Buchs (Switzerland)
Chocolatier Rudolf Läderach Jr. founded Glarus in 1962, which later was rebranded as Läderach in 2008. Rudolf developed the revolutionary truffles design, with a hollow, thin chocolate shell, which improved the manufacturing process of the truffles. Läderach won a bronze medal at the independent World Pastry Team Championship in Nashville, Tennessee (in the United States), in 2008.
Läderach offers tours, a taste-test section, and a chocolate shop. Indulge yourself in the chocolate fountains, with fresh chocolate by the spoon!
Address: Grabenstrasse 6, 8865 Bilten (Switzerland)
The Most Popular?
According to Ranker.com, the best Swiss chocolate is Lindt, followed by Toblerone and Läderach. However, this is debated among the Swiss. Some believe that Cailler is the finest Swiss chocolate—but that it doesn't receive the recognition it deserves, as it is not widely exported.
I personally find it hard to decide. As the Lindt truffles just melt in your mouth (making them hard to resist), Cailler boxes are linked to special occasions, and Läderach has the most unique chocolate bars, which come in a wide range of variety.
Questions & Answers
Question: Which is the best chocolate brand in Switzerland?
Answer: That really depends on personal opinions. Many think Lindt is the best, but I think it depends on the type of chocolate you want to buy. I personally think that for truffles, Lindy is definitely the best; however, for chocolate bars, I like Laderach more.
© 2018 Monique K-G