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Unwrapping Swiss Chocolate: History and Swiss Innovation

Updated: 21 hours ago

Part 1 of this series explores the history of Swiss chocolate, To discover the modern tastes of Swiss chocolate making and some great places in Basel to try them, see Part 2: Unwrapping Swiss Chocolate: Modern Tastes.


Introduction

Indulging in Swiss Chocolate is like experiencing the epitome of sweet delights. It's delicious flavour and smooth texture has enchanted chocolate lovers on a global level. Switzerland’s stunning alpine vistas provide the perfect backdrop for this culinary masterpiece, steeped in a tradition of excellence and quality. 


This article will delve into history and innovative practices that makes Swiss chocolate exceptional. We’ll explore the origins of chocolate-making, the sourcing of premium cocoa beans, and the artistry of Swiss chocolatiers. Additionally, we’ll uncover the secrets behind the conching process, responsible for chocolates' velvety texture. So, whether you’re a seasoned connoisseur or a chocolate enthusiast, we will equip you with valuable insights in making informed decisions when indulging in this delectable experience. 


History of Chocolate Making 

Switzerland was introduced to chocolates back in the 17th century, but it was only enjoyed by wealthy people. In the 18th century, Italian and French people who moved to Switzerland started making chocolate, especially in places like Ticino and Vaud. The first solid proof of chocolate-making comes from Vevey in 1767, where Philippe Loup and Benjamin Rossier used a water-powered mill to make chocolate (1). 


Photo: V&A

In 1819, a Swiss grocer named Francois-Louis Cailler started a fancy chocolate factory in Vevey, using water power to make solid chocolate bars. After many years in 1826, another Swiss chocolate maker named Philippe Succard invented a machine to mix sugar and cocoa butter making Swiss chocolate even better. It was in 1830 when Charles-Amadeé Kohler blended chocolate with hazelnuts (also known as Gianduja), which became a very popular chocolate combination. 


Daniel Peter brought slight modifications to chocolate in 1875 by mixing it with condensed milk, making the first ever solid milk chocolate. It was liked by everyone due to its budget-friendly nature and sweet taste. Then in 1879, Rodolphe Lindt figured out a way to make chocolate super smooth and velvety through the conching process which became highly popular. 


Later in 1908, Theodore Tobler made Toblerone by combining chocolate with nougat, almonds, and honey. And in the 1930s, Nestle in Vevey made white chocolate (made from pure cocoa butter with no cocoa solids), which was different but still delicious. 


These creative minds from Switzerland made chocolate even more delightful, giving us sweet treats that we still enjoy today.


The Foundation of Swiss Chocolate


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Swiss Chocolate's excellent reputation comes from picking the best cocoa beans from top-growing areas worldwide. Swiss chocolatiers mix these beans skillfully to create a well-balanced and rich flavour. They choose beans like 'Criollo' for earthy tastes and 'Forastero' for bold flavours, blending them carefully for a unique balance. This dedication to finding the best cocoa shows how much effort and skill Swiss chocolatiers put into their product. 


The makers use pure cocoa butter that gives a creamy texture to the chocolates. They ensure that the quality and makeup of cocoa butter are up to the mark to meet the expectations of Swiss chocolate. Unadulterated cocoa butter is generally used to get authentic flavour. By maintaining strict control over the processing method of cocoa butter, the chocolatiers preserve the natural essence of cocoa beans and make sure that each bite celebrates the chocolate-making craft. 


The Conching Process: Elevating the Texture and Taste


Photo: Cocoa Terra

Conching is a crucial step in making chocolate. This process aims to provide a smooth and velvety texture by subjecting the chocolate mass to rigorous mixing and aeration. It also helps to develop the desired sensory properties. It is performed in three steps:


  • Firstly, cocoa solids are ground into smaller particles in conching machines to impart a smooth texture to chocolates. 

  • When the mixture is aerated for a longer period, it evaporates volatile compounds like acids and aldehydes that may impart undesirable flavours into the chocolate. 

  • Finally, the continuous heat exposure and agitation lead to the Maillard reaction which generates a variety of flavours, contributing to chocolate’s rich profile. 


The temperature and duration of conching process can be adjusted to achieve desired sensory characteristics, with longer conching times and higher temperatures resulting in a complex and balanced flavour (2), (3). 


Artisanal Excellence in Chocolate Making

Swiss chocolatiers have a long history of dedication and innovation. They have refined the techniques over generations, blending old and new methods to create exceptional chocolates. 


Each step in Swiss chocolate-making is approached with precision. They merge both traditional methods and new technologies to maintain high standards that make chocolate visually appealing and delicious. Due to the commitment and creativity of Swiss chocolatiers, Switzerland remains at the forefront of chocolate excellence, pleasing chocolate enthusiasts worldwide.


Strict Quality Standards

Swiss chocolate companies maintain high standards of quality and safety in their products. They implement stringent measures throughout the supply chain to ensure the integrity and consistency of their products. 

Image: Chocosuisse

Chocolatiers adhere to strict limits on contaminants and the use of non-cocoa fats to ensure the authenticity of the chocolate. Chocosuisse, the Swiss Chocolate Association, emphasizes the significance of quality checks on cocoa beans, thorough cleaning, and crushing them before crafting Swiss chocolate (4).  


Even though the Swiss chocolate industry dealt with issues like trade barriers and economic downturns in the 1900s, it kept evolving and coming up with new ideas to stay at the top of the premium chocolate market. Things like using machines more, adopting new technologies, working closely with other countries economically, and making new kinds of chocolate all keep Swiss chocolates famous for their quality and tradition (5).


Bottom Line

Swiss chocolate’s legacy of excellence and innovation has stood the test of time. It has crafted indulgent delights that are cherished worldwide. Rooted in tradition and meticulous craftsmanship, Swiss chocolatiers continue to push boundaries, blending artistry with technological advancements to deliver unparalleled quality and flavour. From the careful selection of premium cocoa beans to the conching process and adherence to strict quality standards, Swiss chocolates remain a symbol of culinary mastery, delighting chocolate enthusiasts with each decadent bite. 


Sources 



Akanksha Singh


Akanksha Awadhesh Singh was born and brought up in India and is currently pursuing Master of Food Science and Nutrition, at the University of Adelaide in Australia. Currently, she works as a health writer in Health Today in New York, where she mostly writes blogs based on food, health and wellness. She is also a poet and has published a poetry journal entitled Ehsaas. She also maintains a blog page on Medium.com. In her spare time, she loves to read books and listen to some good music. Even though she never lived in Basel, she is highly fascinated by Basel food and culture. 








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