By GREG VORSTER
Elsewhere on this site, a trip to Switzerland nearly ended in disaster no thanks to a milkshake and the mistaken notion that placing it in carry-on luggage was a good idea.
Treats have their moments, though, with some people having a predilection for anything sweet, and the sweetness of Swiss treats is, quite frankly, unmatched. The Swiss have been making chocolate for over two centuries now, and in fact, House of Switzerland revealed that the country is one of the first mass producers of chocolate. François-Louis Cailler opened the floodgates way back in 1819 when he established the first chocolate factory in the country in Corsier-sur-Vevey, just above Lake Geneva. Cailler would go on to found the Cailler chocolate company, which in 1898, built another chocolate factory, this time in Broc. In 1929, Cailler was bought by a company you likely know well – Nestlé.
Visitors can take a trip down memory lane by going to the Maison Cailler in Broc, where the legacy of François-Louis Cailler lives on. You get to watch chocolate being processed via live camera feeds as part of the interactive audiovisual guided tour. Best of all, you can sample a variety of chocolates, including Frigor and, of course, Cailler. Both may not be world famous, in part because they are not widely exported, but they rank right up there with Lindt and Toblerone. Visitors can also have lunch in the factory’s restaurant.
Another must-visit is the Alimentarium Food Museum, which is run by the Nestlé foundation. The museum features food of all kinds, but the highlight of it all is the permanent exhibition showing the origins and history of Nestlé, including its famous chocolate products.
Seven years after Cailler built the first ever chocolate factory in Switzerland, it was Philippe Suchard’s turn to build his own in Serrières, in the canton of Neuchâtel. From then on, all sorts of chocolatiers mushroomed in various parts of the country, and this development made chocolate extremely popular in Switzerland and beyond. More importantly, they helped develop chocolate making into both an art and a science. Daniel Peter, for instance, discovered in 1875 that chocolate + milk was a winning combination, while Rodolphe Lindt developed the process of conching in 1897, which paved the way for the making of melt-in-your-mouth chocolates.
The history of chocolate in Switzerland is as rich as the chocolates the local chocolatiers make, and it certainly rouses curiosity. The next amazing stop was Alprose Chocolate Museum in Caslano-Lugano, which Party Poker identified as a treasure trove of chocolate history. Here, you can even learn about the rather interesting origins of the chocolate outside of Switzerland.
It’s one thing to enjoy something bitter and dry, but sweet, soft chocolate is a different kind of bliss altogether. So it was time for a chocolate tour in Geneva to sample some of the city’s finest delights. Chocolaterie ARN is situated in the old city of Geneva, which means it is the most accessible. The shop has been around for over a century and features a seemingly endless variety of chocolates. The family-run Auer Chocolatier is worth anyone’s while, too, as it offers more than 50 kinds of chocolate, including the Pavé Glacé of Geneva. La Bonbonnière is another favourite destination as it lets customers personalise their own confectionaries by adding more ingredients or by adding a picture, logo, or phrase.
The sweetness of the Swiss is certainly palpable everywhere in the country, and is a pleasure to experience firsthand.