Tested For You: The Best Artisanal Swiss Chocolates You Absolutely Must Try

Tested For You: The Best Artisanal Swiss Chocolates You Absolutely Must Try

Watchonista takes a tour of Switzerland to track down and taste some of the country’s finest chocolate makers.

By Sophie Furley

Watchonista may be best known for its love and appreciation of fine timekeepers, but our team of journalists has numerous parallel passions that range from fast cars to gentleman’s tailoring, design, furniture, and…chocolate!

The History of Swiss Chocolate

The chocolate bar was the brainchild of François-Louis Cailler (1796-1852), for it was Cailler who devised a way to turn cacao into a solid form in his factory in Vevey in 1819. This was followed a few decades later by the arrival of milk chocolate.

Cailler’s son-in-law Daniel Peter (1836-1919) had the idea to add milk to his father-in-law’s recipe. Peter asked his neighbor Henri Nestlé (1814-1890), a German immigrant, if he could use some of the powdered milk Nestlé had invented. It didn’t work as planned, so Peter asked him for some condensed milk, and after some trial and error, milk chocolate was born in 1875.

Henri Nestlé went on to become the founder of the world’s largest food company, which is credited with yet another chocolate invention, that of white chocolate, in 1936.

Over the years, many other Swiss entrepreneurs improved on the recipes, including Philippe Suchard (1797-1884), who invented a machine to grind sugar and cocoa powder into a smooth paste, and Rudolf Lindt (1855-1909), who developed a conching machine that removed any acidity and bitterness in the chocolate.

Inventions like these proved that innovation was taking place, not only in the kitchen but in the machinery used to produce chocolate.

Today’s Chocolate Magicians

Today’s Swiss chocolate makers continue their predecessors’ passion and innovative spirit with creations and concoctions that delight the taste buds. The success of Cailler, Nestlé, Suchard, and Lindt lives on with Swiss exports of chocolate, passing the 1 billion CHF mark for the first time in 2019.

But like in watchmaking, where there are many leading world-famous watch brands, there are also small independents doing incredible things. Watchonista traveled across Switzerland to meet these passionate men and women and taste their mouth-watering creations. In no particular order, here are a selection of our favorites.

Chocolaterie Alexandre, Nyon

Alexander Paul and his wife, Sandrine, set up his chocolatier in the old town of Nyon six years ago. All his chocolate is made with 100% cocoa butter with no colorings, preservatives, palm oil, or gluten. During my visit to his workshop at the back of his boutique, he shared his personal story while delicately coating a tray of Florentines with chocolate.

Throughout our delightful conversation, he passed me different treats to taste – pistachios from the slopes of Etna, a chocolate and hazelnut branch, and more. It was all so delicious that I bought a large assortment of all his specialties, which were so delicious that I have already been back twice to the shop for more!

Throughout our delightful conversation, he passed me different treats to taste – pistachios from the slopes of Etna, a chocolate and hazelnut branch, and more. It was all so delicious that I bought a large assortment of all his specialties, which were so delicious that I have already been back twice to the shop for more!

Boulangerie Saudan, Fribourg

Gérald Saudan is the son of a restaurant owner and always knew he wanted to work in the food business. After an internship making patisseries and eight years as an apprentice in Bulle, he completed his Maîtrise Fédérale, the highest educational level possible in the art of baking, pastry, ice cream, and chocolate. He was awarded the title of European Vice-Champion of Bread Baking in 2002, and in 2006 came fourth in the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie with his team.

After meeting his wife Magrit, they traveled the world, working in gastronomical restaurants, hotels, and even on a cruise line. They set up their shop and bakery in Fribourg 14 years ago and have 70 employees. They work from the cocoa bean to the finished chocolate bar and do an exclusive 5kg bar of chocolate each week.

We tasted a range of their homemade truffles. Standouts included their “Pépites de Cuchaule,” a chocolate bar made of 74% organic Arabico cacao from the Dominican Republic. And their “Bricelets de Grand-Maman” chocolate bar made with 38% cacao from Grenada, which was to die for, honestly. They also sell a chocolate subscription where you receive three different chocolate bars – one dark, one milk, and one mixed – once a month for three months, which is a fabulous gift idea.

Langel Chocolatier, Bienne

Langel Chocolatier was founded by husband-and-wife team Sébastien and Patricia Langel in 2010. Sébastien discovered the world of chocolate while doing a bakery confectioner apprenticeship in Biel. Chocolate-making was a small part of the course, but it was the part that he loved the most.

He went on to work for both big and small chocolatiers. But with his wife Patricia, who has an accounting background, they often discussed the idea of setting up their own chocolatier, though it was a bit of a dream. Then one day, when they were both in a professional lull, they decided to give it a go. The plan was to try for two years, and if it didn’t work out, they would stop and do something else. That was 10 years ago!

Thanks to the support from local people and the old town of Bienne becoming much more attractive through the opening of new shops and cafés, they are still going strong. Their specialties are chocolate pavés (paving stones) of the old town and Seeländerlis, candy that is filled with local alcohols. They are committed to producing in the most artisanal way and even make their own packaging.

Berger de Faletans, Geneva

The Berger de Faletans chocolate company was initially founded by Christophe Berger. But in 2011, he started to wonder about the future of his business. He was already working with Mirjami de Faletans, whose husband he also knew well, so the two couples decided to work together and formed Berger de Faletans.

There was a small laboratory behind the shop at the time that the two couples turned into a tea room, and they moved the laboratory down the street to a 500m2 space, which would give them more room to evolve. Mirjami is Finnish, and her husband is French. Christophe is Swiss, and his wife is from Argentina, making this quartet a diverse team who share the same values.

One of their best-selling chocolates is a praline ganache with ginger and lime. They also have a purely organic ganache from Mexico that is 66% cacao and has fruity aromas, it is extremely popular, especially in tablet form. Some of their clients like the traditional, classical chocolates, while others prefer to try different things. So, they cater to both and have seasonal products that change all the same.

For instance, right now, they have chocolates with strawberries and with pineapple. They also have a praline crumble made with the flowers of the cinnamon plant, which is almost too good to be true.

Fabian Rimann Chocolatier, Wettingen

Fabian Rimann has been making chocolate in Wettingen for over ten years. His chocolate workshop is unique in that it has a window where passers-by can look in and see the bean-to-bar production process and how his hand-made creations differ from industrial-made chocolates.

He loves to work with local Swiss producers where possible and sources his cocoa beans from the Stollmeyer farm in Trinidad & Tobago, which produces exclusively for him. Quality, flavor, intensity, and sustainability are all very important to him, and he has won numerous international prizes for his work.

He also loves to work with unusual shapes and manufacturers his own molds, allowing him to accommodate special requests. He also holds concerts and presentations in his store and has a mobile wood-burning stove that he uses in the summer to take his team on the road for weddings and food festivals.

Garçoa Chocolate, Zurich

Garçoa was founded by Fränzi and Andi, two agronomists (scientists specializing in crop production). They started by experimenting in their home kitchen – roasting beans in the oven, chopping them with a nut mill, and then blowing the skin away with the hairdryer. Now they have their own chocolate workshop in Wollishofen near Zurich.

They were among the first in Switzerland to start the bean-to-bar movement, where everything from the dried cocoa bean to the finished bar is created in-house. The design of their chocolate bars – triangular pieces, instead of the traditional squares – is the work of product designer Andreas Saxer and the graphic studio Hübner Braun. Each triangle has a different texture to give a different taste experience.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our chocolate series coming in 2021. In it, we will take a look at the watch industry’s favorite chocolate makers.

(Photography by Pierre Vogel)

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