The truffle is the size of a golf cart. It’s under a giant, dripping whisk hanging from the ceiling. The chocolate – 370 gallons of it – is real. The Swiss may be known for their neutrality, but at the Lindt Home of Chocolatethe mood is one of colossal dominance.
“Some people dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben. I wanted to take a selfie under that pterodactyl-sized whisk.”
The supermarket-friendly Swiss chocolatier – which also owns and officially trades as Ghirardelli and Russell Stover Lindt & Sprüngli – has been one of the most well-known and popular brands in the world for over 175 years. Earlier this year it was ranked #1 by Tasting Table at the top of the list of the best chocolatessurpassing more expensive and gourmet names like Scharffen Berger and Jacques Genin.
It’s easy to see why – beyond the variety of flavors and quality of the chocolate itself, Lindt’s real secret weapon is its smoothness. As Tasting table explained, their chocolate is “premium, creamy and delicious,” with truffles that “are the definition of tenderness, providing the perfect amount of chocolate filling in every bite.” And because Lindt chocolate has long been a staple in my own kitchen, and usually is in my wallet, it was inevitable that I had to make a pilgrimage to Switzerland for a few weeks during my studies. Some people dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben. I wanted to take a selfie under this pterodactyl-sized whisk.
Of course, Swiss chocolate is not only available from Lindt. There’s the duty-free classic Toblerone, one of the first milk chocolate brands in the world and the best in my opinion. There’s Teuscher, which makes some of the most elegant and beautifully packaged truffles in the world. There is Ragusa, the choice of hazelnut lovers. There’s Callier, a bar that can inspire Prous dreams for generations of backpackers who have clutched Eurail. (If you’ve never had a Callier bar for breakfast, have you even done a semester abroad?) When I go to the supermarket here, the footprint of chocolate relative to all other foods is roughly proportional to the dimensions I’m dealing with themselves. Here in this notoriously reserved nation, where I’ve yet to get a decent glass of wine, they go over the top with their chocolate.
How did chocolate, as described by the Lindt Chocolate Competence Foundation, “embed it in the national identity”? Belgium, the Netherlands and Ecuador are also world class in this area, but in terms of per capita consumption (You are number one), production (200,000 tons per year) and quality (consistently award-winning) Switzerland hits the spot. So if you want to know what makes Swiss chocolate so special, I think it’s practice.
The Swiss weren’t the first Europeans to sample the Mesoamerican delicacy, or the first to sweeten and popularize it in their homeland — that honor goes to the Spaniards. However, what the Swiss did, with a combination of precision and passion, was to innovate its production and techniques.
In the 19th century, the Swiss were enthusiastic about making chocolate an industry and founded some of the world’s first chocolate factories. callier, the oldest still active chocolate brand in Switzerland points out that by the time the Vevey region was founded around 1819, it was already home to at least seven other chocolate factories. This kind of competition and demand encouraged success. Swiss chocolatier Phillip Suchard and his chocolate company pioneered it the melange, a granite grinding machine that grinds sugar and cocoa into a smooth paste. This is thanks to his compatriot Daniel Peter invent milk chocolateby introducing Nestlé’s then-new sweetened condensed milk to boost the sweetness and creaminess of his product. It was Jean Tobler’s company of the same name that had the brilliant idea to set up classic Italian torrone in chocolateand was also one of the first in the world to package chocolate in portable, breakable and breakable bars.
Then there is Lindt. Have you ever bitten into a piece of chocolate that felt crystallized and grainy? Without Rodolphe Lindt it might always be like this.
(Mary Elizabeth Williams)It was Lindt who developed the conche machine and with it the process, as the company itself explains, “Mixing, stirring and aerating the heated liquid chocolate to eliminate unwanted acidity and bitterness” and at the same time makes it supple and fragrant. When you think of the most buttery, melt-in-the-mouth chocolate you’ve ever tasted, no matter where in the world it came from, that taste experience is down to Swiss technology and know-how.
And Lindt knows that about herself. It is classic advertising campaigns Three recurring images are typically seen: silky rippled chocolate, an intense chocolatier contemplating a golden whisk, and a woman who looks like she’s just opened her seventh chakra. At the Lindt Home of Chocolate, you will Look at all of these things.
The Lindt Experience is a relatively new attraction in Zurich’s otherwise cathedral- and cobblestone-strewn area. It only opened three years ago and its origins date back a decade when the Lindt Chocolate Competence Foundation was founded, among other things, with the aim of “securing Switzerland’s position as a competence center for chocolate production in the long term” and “further strengthening competence in Swiss chocolate production”. In April, the Home of Chocolate recorded over a million visitors.
“‘It’s educational!’ I thought as I stuffed another shard into my mouth.
The space is part learning center, part Willy Wonka, and features a cafe, a factory, the world’s largest Lindt store and a museum where visitors can learn more about the ‘Swiss Chocolate Heritage’ – with plenty of tasting opportunities along the way. Because how else are guests supposed to learn how to distinguish white, milk and dark chocolate or how chocolate is mixed and shaped?
“It’s educational!” I thought as I stuffed another shard into my mouth.
There are also classes where guests can make “Precious Chocolate Bars”, chocolate lollipops and figures, or champagne truffles. I had come to make my own version of the legendary Lindt truffle, my own little models of the giant in the lobby.
Lindt is aware that his guests are not there for professional training from Marcus in Copenhagen, but for technically competent instruction with a high wow factor. After ushering our group into a pristine anteroom where we donned fresh toques and cocoa-colored aprons, our chef gave the signal and a huge brown door opened to reveal a gleaming copper kitchen. At that point, music was actually playing, triggering the exact sound of “Am I in a Movie?” Emotions you feel when you enter Disney World.
Inside, we were all given a tray of round chocolate shells that we could fill with ganache, top with carefully tempered milk or dark chocolate, and gently dust with powdered sugar. The resulting drizzle and smeared around my station confirmed that I wasn’t destined for a new career, but the raw materials ensured the end product would still be epic.
(Mary Elizabeth Williams)Throughout the course our instructor talked about how to keep the chocolate smooth and at the right temperature, why certain chocolates of their brand taste different depending on where they are made (it’s the milk; it’s the cows; it’s the grass). different shelf life of our truffles, depending on whether it is milk or dark chocolate and how best to store chocolate. Keep it in a cool and dark place, but avoid the refrigerator if possible to avoid absorbing other food aromas and flavors and not affecting the texture.
He also advised us to try one of our truffles immediately and another in a few hours to observe how the flavors mix and change over time. Nobody protested. I’ve eaten plenty of spectacular chocolate in my life, and I’m not kidding when I say that when this freshly made champagne truffle landed on my taste buds, I felt one with the universe.
Later, as I carefully placed my truffles in a white cardboard box and sealed it with a gold seal, I reflected on how fitting it would be to bring the chocolates to share with my classmates on day one. But that would have meant less to me, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. However, it didn’t matter. Since then, there have been small plates of truffles and miniatures to nibble on every day on the conference table while we go about our work – ranges from Frey and Ragusa and, of course, from Lindt. We eat everything. After all, this is Switzerland. You will make more.