Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Five best luxury Swiss Chocolatiers of Geneva not to be missed.

Switzerland is known for the alpine slopes, snowcapped peaks and the clear waters of the 103 lakes spread across the little mountainous paradise. The very next thing that generally comes to the mind is of course Swiss chocolates. The chocolate was brought to Switzerland in 1679 by Henri Escher, the mayor of Zurich, who had tasted it in Brussels. Now Swiss chocolates are the principle rivals of the famed Belgian ones. The reputation of Swiss chocolates spread across the globe ever since the first chocolate factories opened around the Lake Geneva some 200 years ago. 

As of now Switzerland has the highest per capita rate of chocolate consumption worldwide (11.6 kg (25.6 lbs.) per capita per annum) with 53% of the produced chocolates being exported (20% to Germany, 11% to France and Great Britain and 13% to North America). The gross income of the Swiss chocolate industry is close to 1.5 billion CHF. During my trip to Geneva, I hopped around the city, looking for some of the best chocolatiers of the region, given that this is where some of the earliest and most renowned brands began their journey.

The first Swiss chocolate factory was opened in Vevey, on the Lake Geneva in 1819, called the Cailler, which was later bought by Nestlé making Nestlé the oldest and the largest industrial Swiss chocolate producers in the world. However Nestlé is well known and available in almost all corners of the globe. So in this blog we will leave Nestlé out. Here I will focus on the artisanal and local chocolatiers which are as old (and some older) than Nestlé and their hand-made, exclusive chocolates. These are all based in Geneva and they should not be missed when looking for traditional authentic Swiss chocolates. 

It should be noted that artisanal chocolates are more expensive than the industrial ones (for example around 2.50 CHF per 100 grams for industrial ones and compared to minimum 7.50 CHF per 100 grams for artisanal ones. But the later are truly worth the price. 

The list in order of age is Martel (1818), Favarger (1826), Du Rhone (1875), Rohr (1936), Auer (1939). The following is arranged in the order of my preference, the best the first.

1) Auer (Website ) 

The boutique
Auer started in 1939 when a family of chocolate connoisseurs decided to base their family business in the center of Geneva. Thus for five generations Auer chocolates have been exercising the art of chocolate making. There is only one boutique of Auer chocolates and can be found on Rue de Rive, in the very center of Geneva. In fact most chocolatiers and important boutiques can be found on this street which is right at the foot of the old town of Geneva. For Auer, I can say that among all the chocolates that I have tried on this trip, I enjoyed their blend of chocolates the most.

Not to be missed

The star of Auer are the Amandes princesse which are grilled almonds coated in caramel and cacao powder. 

Then the truffles filled with liquor should not be missed, mainly the ones with champagne and Cointreau. 

2) Du Rhone (Website)

The boutique
This is the third oldest chocolatier of Geneva opened in 1875 and one of the first producers of luxury chocolates of Switzerland. The first boutique was opened on Rue du Rhone, also in the city center and which gives the chocolatier its name. In 1976 the boutique moved to Rue de la Confédération, where its only Geneva boutique can be found now. This is where people like Général de Gaulle, Grace Kelly, Winston Churchill and J.F. Kennedy visited and tasted their chocolates. The chocolatier has also expanded worldwide and can be found in London, New-York, Berlin, Hamburg, Dubai, Riyadh, Taipei and Shanghai as pioneers of luxury Swiss chocolates. All the chocolates here are handmade and prepared by master chocolatier Jean-Pascal Sérignat. 

The boutique also has a small tea-room with the possibility of having breakfast or a quick snack with sandwiches or puff pastries (feuilleté). 

Not to be missed

The Imperial which is an intense ganache with 70% cocoa beans from Brazil-Papua New Guinea won the 1st prize at the Geneva International Chocolatier Show. Also the Coline, which is ganache with 70% cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic, accompanied by its two non-smoked Earl Grey and China teas won the 2nd prize at the Geneva International Chocolatier Show. 

I also loved their chocolate truffle cake with raspberry filling.

3) Martel (Website)

The boutique
This is one of the oldest chocolatiers of Geneva and for that matter all of Switzerland. Opened 200 years ago in 1818, Martel chocolates is supposed to celebrate their bicentennial in a grand style in 2018. The first boutique was located in Carouge, a suburb of Geneva where it can still be found today. However over the last two centuries, Martel has expanded and now has 6 boutiques in the city and 2 at the airport of Geneva.

Martel can also boast of a luxury tea room on Rue de la Croix-d'Or, right at the center of Geneva at the foot of the old town. You can have a proper lunch with club sandwiches and other filling items at this tea-room. Apart from the artisanal traditional chocolates, Martel is also popular among the local for their wide range of macarons, viennoiseries, pastries, confectionery and ice creams.

Not to be missed

The Feuilletine is a layered pastry with rich chocolate mousse and almond crunches topped with a chocolate glazing. This is extremely delicious and best when devoured in the chic tea room of Martel. 

The chocolates filled with ganache are also very luscious. 

Apart from chocolates, Martel also serves French snacks, and the one that I loved is the Foie Gras Canape which is a small circular bread topped with foie gras, fig and olives. 

4) Rohr (Website)

The boutique

The moto of Rohr is “Luxury, peace, and pleasure” which comes from a poem of Baudelaire and a subsequent painting of Matisse. For three generations, Rohr chocolates have lived up to that moto of creating unique, artisanal luxury high end Swiss chocolates. The first boutique was opened by a young Rohr couple in 1936 in Carouge, in the suburb of Geneva. As the house grew they opened their boutique at the center of Geneva on the famous Place du Molard in 1950 where it still exists. After three generations Rohr now has 4 boutiques in Geneva in addition to the one at Carouge. 

Not to be missed

Les poubelles de Genève which are chocolates shaped as trash cans with chocolate ganache filling. 

5) Favarger (Website)

Favarger was the second Swiss chocolate factory to be opened in Switzerland after Cailler (1819) which was the oldest. The later was bought by Nestlé much later making Favarger the proud owner of the oldest Swiss chocolate factory still in production which dates back to 1826. For 7 generations the Favarger family ran the company until 2003 when it was bought by entrepreneur Luka Rajic. 

The Favarger thus can be classified as an industrial chocolate company much like Nestlé and thus the products are expected to be cheaper than the above mentioned luxury artisanal chocolatiers. For example a bar of chocolate (100 grams) of Favarger costs 2.50 CHF as compared to those at Du Rhone or Martel which cost 7.50 CHF for 100 grams. Favarger has the factory at Versoix (suburb of Geneva) but their chocolates are available in most supermarkets across the country (for example at Migros). However due to the traditional know-how of the Favarger family that has been conserved for almost 200 years, it makes it to my list. The chocolate bars of Favarger are worth the try to get an insight on the industrial Swiss chocolates.

1 comment: