“How do you not like chocolate?” My roommate looked at me in faux-disapproval,. as they bit into a piece of milk chocolate.
“Well, I do, but I like those After Eight mints or really dark chocolate, not milk chocolate.”
“You crazy” she laughed and cracked another piece of chocolate.
Here we set in a rather nicely set up tour bus, each with a little goodie bag. Our destination, a chocolate factory. I didn’t know which factory it was, and I ain’t gonna lie, I felt a bit like Charlie getting the golden ticket to go to the chocolate factory.
I mean it is a chocolate factory, to many children growing up its the literaly definition of heaven on earth. If I’m being honest, I sure felt like I was a kid in a chocolate factory, and I wasn’t the only one- there were many adults on the bus who became children for a few hours at the chocolate factory.
Chocolate is one of the most well known products to come out of Switzerland. Slap a word Swiss in front of chocolate and you immediately connote that the chocolate is of high-quality and bound to be a pleasing experience. Swiss chocolate has become a byword of deliciousness, I think it also add to building up the popular impression of a very happy and idyllic, high quality of life in Switzerland. You could doubt reports that talk about happy Singaporeans, but you won’t doubt it when reports rank Switzerland highly.
And yet Switzerland doesn’t even grow cacao naturally, heck even sugar is not a natural Swiss product. All the Swiss do have is milk, lots and lots of milk from some very happy cows.
That is quientisentially Swiss when you think about it – take what others have, process it and make it better. This method has also served its financial sector well, its international government sector and precision manufacturing (think watches) well.
But how did the world come to this, how did chocolate go from a fruit in South America into the most loved desserts today today? One world – colonialism.
The mezo-americans saw cacao beans as gifts from the gods. Drinking it at divine rituals, royal feasts and using the beans as a form of currency. It was only when Hernan Cortez and the spanish conquistadors arrived that they first learnt of the bean. The beans were first brought back as a supplement, medicine and aphrodisiac. Spanish royal courtiers got creative and decided to add sweet items from their other colonies to the chocolate, it was then that chocolate as a dessert began. A Dutchman named van Houten found a way to separate the cacao powder from the natural fats in the beans and a Swiss person added butter and sugar to create the milk chocholate blocks we think of today.
The bus continued twirling round and round hills, where exactly was this factory?
We stepped off the bus to the Maestrani Chocolarium. I instantly became younger by many years.
Maestrani has been around since 1852 and was originally established in St Gallen, and has focused on selling premium chocolates. A premium chocolate is one that uses the best ingredients to make their chocolate basically, and since its premium the price and locations where you can find these chocolates are probably rarer. It was premium because it began in an age when chocolate itself was a special treat reserved for the rich – chocolate today is a luxury that most classes in the developed world can find some version to eat.
What was clear was that these are no Mars bars or Cadbury Chocolate. Explains why I don’t know much about them. It was founded by Andreas Maestrani who was quoted as saying: “He who sees the world through the eyes of a chocolate lover will find true beauty and happiness.”
Wise words sir, wise words.
Maestrani is the same company that produces two of the msot popular chocolate bars in Switzerland, the Minor and Munz bars. Both of which are created right in this factory.
Time to go explore! We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the most exciting parts of the tour. To be honest though, you didn’t miss much, the factory tour was rather disappointing – cute room of fortune cats notwithstanding.
The booth outside selling chocolate and the cafe were perhaps more interesting.
Now, the tour may have been slightly disappointing but the chocolate was good, very very good.
“I got some chocolate back from Switzerland”
“Is it milk chocolate?”
“See told you it was good!”
She had a point, but I still like my mints and dark chocolate more 😉
ON THE MAP