We were excited to have Gabe’s cousin, Couch Surfer, staying with us for four days in Geneva. She has been traveling all over Europe for 6 weeks. Unfortunately, the weather this April has been rain, rain and more rain. To no surprise, we woke up on her second day to gloomy skies and downpours.
Which begs the question….what in the heck do you do with a guest in Geneva in the rain? Especially….on a Sunday?
Basically, our conclusion was to taste our way through Switzerland. And thank goodness that while all cultural attractions in Switzerland are closed on Sundays and Mondays, the culinary attractions are still a possibility.
The Cailler Chocolate Factory is about an hour and a half drive from Geneva, in Broc. It is located right next to Gruyeres and the Cheese Factory making it convenient to hit both in the same trip, time allowing. We had been to Gruyeres before with Andres, but not to Broc. As we drove and got closer and closer to Cailler, we realized we were in the middle of nowhere. Where I grew up, we would call this BFE.
Our GPS didn’t fail us – we were in the right spot. Later in our tour, we learned why Cailler is in the middle of nowhere. Basically, they wanted access to great milk (cows) and a water supply (Alps). They also say the chocolate tastes better because of the fresh air of the alpine landscape. Thus, the undisturbed panorama in Broc could provide both.
And no worries about a collision with a tractor trailer on the one lane road – every piece of chocolate is shipped out via rail. That is except what goes out in tourists pockets!
We were grouped into a small cluster of other English speakers for our tour. The tour was “self-guided” and started by shuffling us through a series of rooms/exhibits to tell the story of chocolate.
It started with the Aztecs and the story of their discovery of the cocoa bean. They mainly used it to make Chocolati, a cocoa-based drink, which they considered a drink of “the gods”. Trouble soon arose when Cortez conquered the land and the Aztec people and took the cocoa beans and recipe for Chocolati with him back to Europe. There, the beans became used as a currency and grew in popularity amongst the nobility (poor people couldn’t afford it).
The controversial drink raised question with the Dominicans, as they suspected that it was a drink of sin and could provide a way for evil to enter the body. Luckily, Pope Pius V declared it okay and also indicated that drinking the yummy substance didn’t constitute a break in fast during Easter. It’s popularity continued to grow throughout Europe, particularly in Paris, and it was marketed as an aphrodisiac.
The Belgians and Germans contributed a great deal to the Chocolate Movement. However, it wasn’t until the 19th Century that the chocolate movement moved to Switzerland. And, they caught up fast.
1n 1819, Cailler opened the first chocolate factory in Switzerland. In 1875, Peter “invented” milk chocolate by figuring out how to fuse the chocolate with a valued Swiss resource: dairy. Nestlé who had invented baby formula from milk, helped add to this new delicacy with his know-how around milk and manufacturing. During the Great Depression, Nestlé and Cailler actually merged for survival.
Swiss chocolate is said to be the best because they were the inventors of milk chocolate. However, don’t discredit the dark so fast….it is also a specialty because of the specialized conching (the process in which chocolate gets smooth and shiny) and aging that is unique to Switzelrand.
After learning the history, we got to touch the beans and ingredients, learn about why chocolate is good for us, and watch Branches being made. If we have brought you chocolate from Switzerland, there is a good chance you tried a Branche bar.
We got mini branches to taste and then we got to go the tasting room, with 15 types of chocolate. They were smart and had a chocolatier on guard so that guests couldn’t scarf up all the chocolates.
Also, we had heard to “hold out” in tasting as the ones at the end are the best and you don’t want to burn out, so we did so. The tip was accurate. The nicer ones were at the end. I adored the dark Ambassador ones with coffee and hazelnut filling.
We wrapped up around 4pm and decided to skip the cheese factory in lieu of more time in the Lavaux wine region. Lavaux is an easy stop to add to any trip on the other side of the lake. We drove through the adorable wine village of Chexbres before parking at Vinorama, known to be open on Sundays and a place that hosts a variety of Lavaux types.
Vinorama is a nice spot to take visitors, you may remember it from when The Captain and Swiss Miss were visiting.
Last time I came, we did a formal tasting. However, this time, we opted to each select two half glasses. Our selections rounded out the chocolate and the afternoon with a nice taste of another Swiss product.
The Swiss Watch Blog: Famous Swiss Foods – Chocolate
Schwingen in Switzerland: Chocoholics Anonymous