Unpacking the tall box of silky smooth, rotund milk chocolates wrapped in striking red and gold paper is arguably one of the best parts of my trip, each time I come home from Switzerland. A visit to the Lindt store in Zurich is always a ‘to do’ item in my itinerary. After all, few things make us happier than popping those absolutely delightful, red Lindor chocolates in our mouths. These goodies are truly milk chocolate truffles redefined. Thanks to Rodolphe Lindt and the ingenious conching machine he invented in 1879, the world has been savouring these heavenly concoctions amongst other delectable creations of Lindt.
While Lindt is one of Switzerland’s top chocolate makers, the country’s tryst with chocolate dates back to the early 19th century. Deep rooted in tradition but driven by continuous innovation, chocolate occupies a pride of place in Swiss culture. With world-class brands like Toblerone, Läderach, Frey, Lindt & Sprüngli and Cailler, it is little wonder that the Swiss top the charts when it comes to the annual per capita consumption of the food of the Gods.
And if you are a chocolate lover, the Swiss nation is one of the best places to experience the whole history, development and evolution of the chocolate industry while savouring and shopping for them. Apart from sightseeing trips to the hills and meadows and visiting fairy-tale-like towns and quaint cafes, you can unleash your inner chocoholic by indulging in unique chocolate experiences. From museums, chocolate factories with visitor centres to chocolate walks and tasting sessions, Switzerland promises a compelling gastronomic journey. Here are some key places you can visit to satiate your chocolate cravings.
Maison Cailler Chocolate
The most appropriate point to start your chocolate trail is to visit the place where Switzerland’s love affair with chocolate first started. Located just under 200 km from Zurich is the Maison Cailler chocolate factory at Broc. A pioneer in the manufacture of milk chocolate, this one traces its history to the 1796 born François-Louis Cailler. Cailler was instrumental in setting up the first factory for the mass production of Swiss chocolate in Vevey way back in 1819. Later, along with his son-in-law Daniel Peter, he hit upon the idea of adding milk to chocolate not only to make it more delicious but also to reduce costs. The present-day factory in Broc was set up in 1898 by Alexandre-Louis Cailler, the grandson of François-Louis Cailler. Since then, this original home of Swiss chocolate has scaled new heights with the introduction of new recipes, techniques and implementation of advanced technology. It is interesting to note that Cailler is one of the rare brands of milk chocolate that uses condensed milk and not powdered milk, making it richer, creamier and, of course, tastier.
The factory at Broc has a visitor centre which takes guests on an adventure that is literally sweet and delicious. You start by visiting the museum, which is a treasure trove of information on the history of chocolate and the entire journey from bean to bar. It traces the journey of chocolate right from the source of the beans and how it entered Europe and finally Switzerland. The evolution of the chocolate culture in Switzerland is also remarkably displayed. The interactive displays, photos and information boards provide insights into various topics right from bean processing to the combination of ingredients that produce the finest chocolate. The whole experience is multisensorial and one can actually touch and feel most of the ingredients like cocoa beans and nuts, and also witness the production of a small batch of chocolates on an assembly line. There is also a fun section that shows you how to be a “Cailler taster” and this one depicts how chocolate-tasting involves all five senses. Apart from getting to taste multiple chocolates at the end of your tour, the centre hosts a number of fun chocolate-themed workshops for children and adults alike.
Lindt Home of Chocolate,
A must visit for all chocolate aficionados and lovers, the Lindt Home of Chocolate was opened in September 2020 by the Lindt Chocolate Competence Foundation in the premises of their Kilchberg factory, located very close to Zurich. Being master chocolatiers, Lindt chocolates are known for their fine ingredients, palatable flavours and superior taste, making it one of the most popular chocolate brands in the world. Housed in an exquisitely designed building replete with spiralling staircases and cascading walkways, all of which is connected to a central atrium done up in pristine white, the complex houses a 1500 square foot interactive multimedia exhibition, a research facility, the world’s largest Lindt chocolate shop, the first Lindt Café in Switzerland as well as a chocolateria for fun chocolate workshops. Set to amplify the already glorious story of Swiss chocolates, the best part about this complex is the utterly magnificent nine-meter high chocolate fountain in the atrium developed by Atelier Brückne. This is, in fact, the world’s highest free-standing chocolate fountain. The sweet smell of chocolate from this incredible creation, as soon as you step inside, forms the perfect prelude for your visit.
The exhibition comprehensively covers various aspects of cocoa cultivation and the history of chocolate while delving into Swiss chocolate pioneers and their inspiring journey. It also touches upon aspects like challenges the industry faces coupled with issues of fair trade and sustainability. With irresistible tasting experiences of liquid chocolate in the exhibition area as well as Lindt pralines, one can witness and learn about the different stages of chocolate manufacture like roasting, mixing of ingredients, conching, moulding, de-moulding and the like. With interactive displays, hands on activities and several photo opportunities, this one is a truly immersive experience.
Apart from these two attractions, Switzerland is a haven for chocolate lovers and boasts of several chocolate themed experiences. Chocolate walks in Zurich, quirky workshops at the funky chocolate club in Interlaken and taking a ride aboard the chocolate train, which runs between Montreux and the Cailler-Nestle chocolate factory at Broc, are just some examples. One can also visit Max Chocolatier which is a renowned name in Zurich and Lucerne for handmade, bespoke chocolates made with novel ingredients like pumpkin seeds, passion fruit and even saffron.
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