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It's safe to say that chocolate—at least the smooth, delicious confection we know and love today—was invented in Switzerland. Until the Swiss entered the chocolate scene, chocolate was never anything more than a hot beverage. But in 1819 Francois-Louis Cailler created the first chocolate bar. Then in 1875 Daniel Peter, son-in-law of Francois-Louis Cailler, came up with the idea of adding milk to chocolate to reduce costs and make it more palatable. His neighbor, Henri Nestlé, specialized in condensed milk, and together they developed milk chocolate.
In 1879 Rodolphe Lindt invented the process of "conching," a manufacturing process that produces cocoa and sugar particles smaller than the tongue can detect. Prior to conching, chocolate had an uneven and gritty texture. By the end of the 19th century with help of the Frey brothers, Phillippe Suchard, Jean Tobler and others, Switzerland was known as the home of the world's best chocolate—a reputation it still holds today. There's no better place to immerse yourself in the world of fine chocolate than on a Switzerland tour. Switzerland has the world's highest per capita rate of chocolate consumption (25.6 lbs. per year). And even today most Swiss chocolate is consumed by the Swiss themselves (54% in 2000) The Swiss produce about 150,000 tons of chocolate per year. On our hikes such as the Haute Route, Eiger to Matterhorn, and Exploring the Jungfrau our guides always have a stash of Swiss chocolate in the backpack. In the cool and comfortable hiking weather of the Alps, chocolate packs well and is a welcome source of quick energy on the trail. Here are some of our favorite Swiss chocolate brands:
More commonly known as Lindt, this Swiss premium chocolate and confectionery company is headquartered in Kilchberg, Switzerland. In 1998, Lindt acquired American chocolatier, Ghirardelli, as a wholly-owned subsidiary, and now manufactures Lindt products in New Hampshire and Ghirardelli chocolates in San Leandro, California. In 2014, Lindt acquired American candy maker Russell Stover, whose brands also include Whitman's chocolate. When the acquisition is complete, Russell Stover will be under the corporate umbrella of Ghirardelli and Lindt will surpass Nestle as the third largest chocolate manufacturer in the US, behind Hershey and Mars which control over half the US chocolate market. Lindt has a chocolate exhibit at the Jungfraujoch and a Lindt Chocolate Experience at the Swiss Museum of Transport in Luzern.
Cailler is the oldest chocolate manufacturer in Switzerland and is known as one of the world's finest chocolates. Its brands include Frigor and Cailler, which are still made in the company's factory in Broc. Cailler is not widely exported, so it lacks the name recognition of Lindt or Tobler. And while you can purchase it on Amazon, you'll probably want to come to Switzerland to enjoy its many varieties at the source. Cailler is one of the few brands of milk chocolate that does not use powdered milk, but rather is made with a slightly condensed milk.
The Coop chain's budget line of chocolate does not disappoint, and compares favorably with the high quality name brands. They're found in all Coop stores and our favorites include the Giandino-both dark and milk. Coop's house brand is manufactured by Chocolats Halba.
Started by the Frey brothers in 1887, the company was purchased in 1950 by the Swiss supermarket chain Migros. Frey now claims to be the best-selling chocolate in Switzerland, due in large part because it is the only chocolate brand sold in the nationwide chain of Migros stores. Frey also claims to be the only major brand of chocolate produced entirely within Switzerland.
Toblerone was created by Theodor Tobler and Emil Baumann in Bern, Switzerland in 1908. They developed a unique milk chocolate including nougat, almonds and honey with a distinctive triangular shape. The product's name is a portmanteau combining Tobler's name with the Italian word torrone (a type of nougat). The logo features the image of a bear hidden in the Matterhorn mountain symbolizing Bern, the town of its origin. Toblerone bars—even the ones sold in the US—are still made in Bern by Modelez.
The popularity of Läderach has surged in recent years. Läderach sells chocolate at its shops throughout Switzerland. They have a factory tour and Chocolate Experience exhibit in Bilten Switzerland, and a studio and Chocolate Experience in Vevey.
Started in the early 1940s in the Swiss Alps by master chocolatier Dolf Teuscher, Teuscher Chocolates has gained a worldwide reputation through their far-flung network of stylish chocolate shops located in New York, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Beverly Hills and over 20 locations worldwide. Ironically, Teuscher has only two stores in Switzerland—one in Zurich and one in Geneva. With over a hundred varieties, Teuscher Chocolates continue to all be made in Zurich using all natural ingredients--no chemicals, additives, or preservatives--and flown to their stores worldwide.
If you're passionate about your chocolate and want to immerse yourself in the world of Swiss Chocolate, Alpenwild features a Tour de Chocolat that was created to delight the most discerning of choclate afficionados. In classes, workshops, excursions and dining experiences youwork side by side with leading chocolate makers and chocolatiers. The tour starts in Luzern and concludes in Vevey, the birthplace of chocolate.
Two other popular tours that include chocolate on the itinerary are Swiss Bliss and Cheese, Chocolate and the Scenic Alps. On these tours you'll participate in chocolate tastings, and immerse yourself into the world of fine chocolate manufacturing. We are guests at Maison Cailler in Broc, the home of Swiss chocolate. You'll tour the factory, have a leisurely tasting session with over 20 different varieties of Cailler chocolate, and learn the history and traditions surrounding the food of the gods—chocolate.