Switzerland is a chocoholic's dream destination
During Easter chocolate goes from “forbidden” to “essential”.
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The first Easter eggs were chicken eggs saved up during Holy Week. These were decorated and given to children at Easter since at least the 14th Century. By the 18th Century there were hollow cardboard eggs filled with sweets. Chocolate Easter eggs were created in Germany and France in the early 19th Century. These chocolate eggs were bitter, solid and hard.
It was only in 1875 when Cadbury obtained a revolutionary new chocolate press from Holland that the first hollow Easter eggs appeared. These treats were filled with sugared almonds. The first milk chocolate Easter eggs came along in 1905 but these were mainly marketed for adults until the 1950s.
Did you know? To cater for the Easter demand, Eastern eggs are made in Cadbury’s Australian factory for eight months of the year
Looking at the history of chocolate Easter eggs made us start us thinking about what single destination should lure the keen chocolate enthusiast. The clear answer is Switzerland.
Switzerland is the perfect haven for chocolate lovers
The Swiss have the highest consumption of chocolate in the world (over 11kg per annum) and bread and chocolate is a typical afternoon child’s snack. But if you’re in the home of Swiss chocolate, why not? After all, the country produces 150,000 tons of chocolate each year.
Switzerland produces 150,000 tons of chocolate each year
It was a Swiss man who had the bright idea to add milk to chocolate to make it more palatable. His neighbour was Henri Nestlé who specialised in condensed milk so milk chocolate was born in 1875. Four years later Rodolphe Lindt invented “conching” that produces cocoa and sugar particles smaller than the tongue can detect. Then Theodore Tobler added nougat in 1908.
Chocosuisse is a good place to start as some of its members allow public visits. But to wet your appetite it’s worth knowing that there’s a Swiss Chocolate Train, a Belle Epoque 1915 Pullman train with a modern panorama car. It runs from the vineyards of Montreux to cheese dairies of Gruyères and on to Broc to visit the oldest chocolate house in the world.
You can discover the most famous Swiss culinary traditions aboard the Chocolate Train (Photo: Serjio74/Shutterstock)
Mr Cailler was the father-in-law of the man, mentioned earlier, who first added milk to chocolate. While the first, Cailler chocolate (now part of the Nestles empire) is little known internationally as it doesn’t export.
As well as Maison Cailler you’ll also visit Maison Gruyères. The train runs from May to October, with departures on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday in shoulder season and daily in July and August. Trains and chocolates – the perfect Swiss pairing.
Cailler is one of Switzerland's oldest and best-known chocolate brands (Photo: Fat Jackey/Shutterstock)
Alternatively, you can take the walk from Gruyères to Charmey through the dramatic Jaunbach Gorge near Broc – the scenery is just as special as the chocolate.
If you wish to visit Switzerland’s largest chocolate manufacturer then head to the Frey Chocolate Visitor Centre in Buchs. Frey says it’s the biggest seller in the country, especially through Migros, the supermarket chain that owns it. Frey started making chocolate in 1887.
The Swiss have the highest consumption of chocolate in the world (over 11kg annually)
Lindt and Sprungli no longer have factory tours but there is a huge factory shop in Zurich. The address is Pilgerweg 58,8802 Kilchberg. While there’s every Lindt chocolate you can dream of, the real bargain are the seconds that may have just minor packaging dents or the like. Lindt also has a chocolate shop on top of the Jungfrau (3454 metres) – it was opened by Roger Federer in 2014.
Ever dreamed of visiting a chocolate factory?
Of course, any visit to a Lindt shop provides the opportunity to stock up on those distinctive gold foil-wrapped bunnies.
Just about everywhere in Switzerland offers chocolate and a chocolatier. Läderach has a Chocolate Experience at Bilten but you need to book in advance. Teuscher of Zurich is often rated as one of the world’s best chocolates and has several shops around Zurich. It uses no additives or preservatives and produces champagne truffles made with Dom Perignon. Don't miss the champagne or cognac truffles at Blondel in Lausanne.
Chocolate is only for eating in Switzerland. How about experiencing a hot chocolate massage? A few Swiss spas offer this but the most convenient is Airport Fitness underneath the Radisson Blu hotel at Zurich Airport. The 50 minute massage costs $120 Swiss Francs.
A relaxing hot chocolate massage? Yes please!
Of course, there’s more to the world of chocolate than the Swiss. There’s Belgium, France, Italy and a chocolate hotel in St Lucia. In Norway you can buy blue cheese chocolate and the Barcelona Museum of Chocolate has an edible ticket. Yes, it is a hard job but there’s so much research to be done.
Have you had any great chocolate experiences in Switzerland? Or anywhere else around the world? Join the conversation below.