Who produces the best Swiss chocolate?

Alternative chocolate guide for Switzerland

or
What's up with the Swiss bean to bar startup scene in Switzerland?
Swiss chocolate

Switzerland is a chocolate country and known across borders as the “best chocolate in the world”. But if we take a closer look, questions quickly arise such as: Who exactly has the best chocolate in the world? How do we define “best”? Often I feel like at the Judgment of Paris , the day the French discovered that they were do not have the best wine in the world.

Background information on Swiss chocolate

In the last two years I have tasted a huge range of different Swiss and international chocolate manufacturers and am now in able to write my personal “Best of Swiss Chocolate” article. First of all, however, three insights into industrial chocolate, the taste and the variety:

Industrial chocolate in Switzerland

The first realization that someone comes to when they start analyzing the Swiss chocolate market is that this is a highly concentrated market that is dominated by very few players . We find hundreds of chocolate products at Migros or Coop, but none of them are made by more than 4-5 companies. The same goes for the countless confectionery shops. While a confectionery specializes in creating specialties from chocolate, it does not make chocolate itself, but only buys it from the same big suppliers. It is difficult to compare the chocolate from two confectionery shops, as it is usually impossible to find out who originally made the chocolate.

Standardized taste

The second finding is that the traditional chocolate houses are mainly interested in creating their own recognizable brand taste. To standardize the taste, high roasting temperatures are used, paired with the addition of vanilla or vanillin. In other words, it is difficult to taste the actual taste of chocolate or cocoa beans. Since the invention of the conche in 1826, there has often been an insistence in Switzerland that technology is responsible for producing the “best chocolate”. However, the latest scientific findings show that more than half of the chocolate taste is accounted for by the cocoa genome and proper fermentation and drying. The value of the origin is disproportionately important and cannot simply be ignored. But it is usually impossible to know what kind of cocoa I am tasting.

This last point has led to a real paradigm shift over the last 20 years, especially abroad, but fortunately slowly here as well.

Traditionally, cocoa was divided into three types: the mild, aromatic and low-yielding Criollo (less than 5% of the world's cocoa), the bitter but high-yielding Forastero (more than 70% of the world's cocoa) and Trinitario (rest), a hybrid of the first two, high-yielding and with a little more Taste. In 2008, however, the scientist J.C. Motamayor first of all prove the genetic diversity of cocoa. He came up with over 10 different types of cocoa with countless sub-types: Marañon, Contanamá, Curacay, Nacional, Nanay, Iquitos, Amelonado, Criollo, Guiana and Purús. Depending on the region and climate, however, other conditions arise for the cocoa. Each variety and region lead to different taste profiles.

The companies that have emerged in recent years have therefore turned the production of chocolate on its head. Instead of achieving a uniform taste, they try to best bring out the flavor profile of a particular region and variety. Among other things, this brings out a much nicer appreciation of the origin.

So my first conclusion is:

If I don't know exactly where the cocoa comes from and ideally what type it is, I don't have to eat it.

Faked diversity

The third finding is that in Switzerland there are a lot of companies offering «private label» services. This means that the consumer believes he is swiveling around in a great variety, with the most diverse products being created by one and the same company. This may be very efficient economically and there are many other good reasons. However, we would only like to mention the entrepreneurs who have their own production, make a conscious decision which cocoa beans to choose and with which roast profile and melangeur they are processed (i.e. produce bean to bar). This is the only way to achieve a unique chocolate product that also passes a blind test. Each manufacturer has an unmistakable signature.

Bean to bar scene in Switzerland

Switzerland is late in the international bean to bar movement. The USA has done the pioneering work, there are now well over 200 bean to bar manufacturers, in Peru over 20. But here too, in the last 5 years, some courageous people have dared to take the step of self-employment and founded their own chocolate factory. The big difference to conventional manufactories is that they make dark chocolate with origin-specific cocoa (single origin) with few ingredients and lighter roasts than usual.

One of the first to start making this in Switzerland was Fabian Rehmann , unfortunately it has meanwhile stopped. But there is an exciting book by him that contains all the important information for every amateur: Bean to bar - from the cacao bean to the finished chocolate bar

Chocolate from Zurich

Taucherli (Adliswil)

Taucherli by the small batch project

Foundation: In 2015, Kay Keusen took over the company premium swiss chocolate GmbH .

What is special? Kay is known for his strong support for the bean to bar movement in Switzerland and for supporting everyone who wants to be part of it. From the beginning he operated an “open door policy”. He not only likes to open the doors for customers and takes plenty of time for them, but he also opens the doors for everyone who wants to make chocolate themselves in the future and helps them wherever he can. He loves his machines and is a tinkerer with passion.

Awards: Taucherli is one of the only companies (together with Garçoa) to receive international prizes at the International Chocolate Awards International Chocolate Awards and at the Academy of ChocolateAcademy of Chocolate.

Origin of cocoa: Finca la Rioja México, Hacienda Betulia Colmbia, Cameroots Cameroon, Nicaragua, Ghana

If I have to choose 2 bars: Mexico and Betulia B6 both Criollo Cocoa, dark chocolate that looks like milk chocolate because of its white cocoa bean with an extraordinary complex taste experience that lacks bitterness (although Ghana is 100% also world class).

You should pay attention to this: Taucherli also has a couverture line, that is, bought/ready-made chocolate mass whose origin is not defined. Funny fun bars with inclusions, but not intended for chocolate tastings.

Insider knowledge: He also produces the bars for the own brand of Hacienda Betulia, a sustainable Swiss-Colombian family company. They cultivate single-origin, high-quality Criollo cocoa.

Garçoa (Wollishofen)

Garcoa by the small batch project

Founding: 2016 by Fränzi Akert and Andreas Brechbühl

What is special? They are the only puristic two-ingredient manufacturers in Switzerland , ie they only use cocoa beans and sugar, without cocoa butter and without additives. Both are agronomists, Fränzi worked in Peru for a long time and Andi in Ghana, which explains their relationship to their origins.

Awards: Chulucanas Peru 75% got bronze at the International Chocolate Awards 2018 and silver at the Academy of Chocolate 2017 won. Their Idukki Indien also won silver in the latter competition won.

You have to have done it : Chocolate Safari - Here you get a tour through their manufactory with a lot of knowledge about cocoa, chocolate and production.

Origin of cocoa : Curimaná Peru (tropical), Chulucanas Peru (tangy lemony), Sronko Ghana (chocolatey), Idukki Indien (tart and fruity)

If I have to choose 2 bars: Chulucanas Peru and Indien mit Nibs (crunch munch munch).

Insider knowledge: Also very specifically with their Single Origin Sronko Ghana bar, they prove that even «conventional» Forastero cocoa can become gourmet chocolate and can be really chocolaty. The cocoa comes from the Sronko farm, which works according to the principles of bio-dynamic agriculture and permaculture. With this quality, lower degrees of roasting can also be used, whereby the original flavors of the cocoa come to the fore.

La Flor (Wiedikon)

La Flor Zurich Chocolatier by the small batch project

Foundation: 2017 by Laura Schälchli, Ivo Müller and Heini Schwerzenbach,

What is special? La Flor was a slightly larger team from the start and has a lot of experience from different areas. Laura also runs the Sobremesa, to promote a better eating culture, Ivo Müller is known from the Rosso restaurant and Bar Basso and Heini Schwerzenbach is known from the legendary grocery store of the same name in Niederdörfli. They also work closely with Felchlin, who break and peel the cocoa beans for them. Finn Ramseier, your Chocolate Maker then processes all further steps in your factory, which is located in ‹the provisional› an incubator for innovative and sustainable food start-ups. This can also be visited regularly.

The inspiration for the naming was ‹Flor›, a well-known black silk fabric that was manufactured in Zurich from the 14th to the 19th century. During this time, the silk industry and its trade flourished. With its name, La Flor would like to create a connection to historical Zurich handicrafts. The shape of the bars and the art on the packaging also support this topic.

Origin of the cocoa: Hacienda Limon, Ecuador, Tesoro Escondido, Ecuador, Fazenda Vera Cruz, Brasil, Finca Rodrigo (new: Finca Cayetano), Venezuela

If I have 2 panels must choose: Fazenda Vera Cruz Brazil (fruity, fresh and lively, raisin note) and Finca Rodrigo (although I still have the stronger cinnamon note from the before miss the forthcoming harvest).

What can we expect here? You have recently revised your entire appearance and there is an announcement that there will be a new shop / café / cocoa house next to Schwerzenbach in Niederdörfli.

Kürzi Kakao (Zurich)

Kürzi Kakao by the small batch project

Foundation: End of 2018 by Britta and Martin Kurzi

What makes them special? Britta has left her home country USA and followed love to Switzerland. Here she realized her dream at the end of 2018 and opened her own exclusive chocolate factory in Zurich. This is a de facto one woman establishment and all of their creations are vegan. Their sweet packaging is perfect as a gift.

The cocoa beans come from Kokoa Kamili, a company that works with smallholders in Mbingu village in the Kilombero Valley in Tanzania. Cocoa beans, mainly of the Trinitario variety, are centrally dried and fermented in locally built boxes lined with banana leaves and rice bags. The cocoa beans are then placed on custom-made tables for 5 - 7 days to dry in the sun and then sorted by hand so that only the best are packed for export.

If I have to choose 2 bars: Tanzania 72% or with ground hazelnut

What can we expect here? A great joint workshop on November 7th! Come by 😉 and I was whispered ... a new Origin will be added soon: Zorzal: Dominican Republic

Zentral und Westschweiz Schokolade

Orfève (Geneva)

Orfeve Chocolate by the small batch project

Foundation: End of 2017 by François-Xavier Mousin and Caroline Buechler

What is special? Orfève is that first artisanal chocolate manufacturer from West Scheiz that is 100% bean-to-bar. They produce all of their chocolate bars origin-specifically in order to do justice to the value of the rarest and most valuable cocoa varieties. François-Xavier has an intensive olfactory and gustatory training as a wine connoisseur, which is extremely useful to him in developing the fine taste of your chocolate.

If I have to choose 2 bars: Gran Blanco de lAlto Piura noir de noir (fruity, tangy with a note of sandalwood), Salomon Islands ( sour and fruity explosion, followed by woody notes and a hint of Havana in the finish)

origin of cocoa: Porcelana de la Sierra de Perija - Venezuela , Trinitario de Tumaco- Colombia , Gran Blanco de l'Alto Piura-Peru , Trinitario d'Ambanja, Madagascar , Amelonado du Matepono, Salomon Island

You have to pay attention to this : The Noir de Noir is finely ground, while the Brut du Noir the sugar is only added at the end, which creates a crunchy texture. Definitely a must to try out!

Gebrüder Grimm Chocolate (Biel)

gebrüder Grimm Schokolade

Foundation: at the beginning of 2019 by the brothers Marc and Steve Grimm.

What is special? In this two-man business, both are trained chefs or confectioners, who have decided to set up their own chocolate factory in their home in Lüscherz on Lake Biel. Her motto for her bean-to-bar bars: From the best fine cocoa beans to the finished bar - from fair and direct trade.

Single Origins: Arriba Nacional from Manabí in Ecuador (honey, green coffee) , Cameroots, Cameroon (caramel, double cream), Hacienda Betulia, Colombia , Liasion du Monde (Blend Cameroon and Ecuador)

Did you know? That the cooperative in Ecuador counts every tree and controls it precisely, that only Arriba Nacional cocoa comes into the sack?

If I have to choose 2 bars: Ecuador, Camerroots (caramel, Double cream, roasted cocoa) the latter goes well with Sake !

You have to pay attention to this : Not all of their bars that you sell are bean to bar. Like Taucherli, they also have a couverture line.

What are we looking forward to? Your new cocoa origin: Mexico

Sadé

Sade Chocolat Ancestral

Foundation: 2017 by Suzan Inan

What is special? That is definitely the chocolate, which falls most out of all known Swiss traditions. And that's exactly why excited. With Sadé Chocolat Ancestral, Suzan would like to show us a rough, coarse-grained chocolate that was only minimally processed - completely handmade, just as the Mayans and Aztecs ate their "food of the gods" back then. Every step of this time-consuming process of turning cocoa beans into chocolate is done by hand by Suzan. As soon as she receives her precious cocoa beans, they are checked to remove any residues, they are roasted in a saucepan while stirring constantly until all five senses are in harmony. Then they are peeled to avoid the bitterness of the pods spoiling the chocolate taste. With a touch of unrefined cane sugar, the cocoa is ground in a hand-operated grinder that prevents the mixture from being heated. The aromatic intensity and the crispy texture of hand-ground cocoa beans mixed with crispy raw sugar make Sadé Chocolates so unique.

Single Origin: Arauca (Colombia)

When I have to choose 2 chocolate bars: Chocolat brut à la crème de patates douces et sésames caramélisés (very nutritious, best for a hike) or Chocolat brut noisettes, sarrasin & orange (perfect for Christmas)

What is still missing from the bean to bar scene in Switzerland?

The current chocolate makers already cover many origins. Still, I miss the exotic: Papua New Guinea with its smoky edge, Vietnam with earthy nutty aromas, Malaysia (fruity) or Sri Lanka (green tea, tart) and the Philippines. Hardly anyone has taken care of the whole islands: St. Vincent, Trinidad y Tobago or Haiti. Costa Rica, Belize (e.g. with the cocoa from the Hacienda Maya Mountain) or Panama are still completely missing on the Swiss chocolate map. There are also no countries of origin that normally only supply bulk cocoa, such as Indonesia or the Ivory Coast.

There is still a lot to explore!

Have fun exploring! All Swiss chocolate manufacturers online in the Category Switzerland .

Andrea
Certified Chocolate Taster

PS. This list is certainly not complete, it is a first discovery and a personal overview.