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Swiss Chocolate

In the early centuries after Christ’s death, as the Roman Empire headed towards slow collapse on a diet of rough wine and olives, the Mayans in Central America were pounding cocoa beans, consuming the product made with them and even using the beans as a system of payment.

A millennium later, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés brought the first load of cocoa to Europe, in 1528. He could not have anticipated the subsequent demand for his cargo. The Spaniards, and soon other Europeans, developed an insatiable thirst for the sweetened beverage produced from it. The solid form came later.

Swiss chocolate built its reputation in the 19th century, thanks to pioneering spirits such as François-Louis Cailler (1796-1852), Henri Nestlé (1814-90), Jean Toble (1830-1905), Daniel Peter (1836-1919) and Rodolphe Lindt (1855-1909). Cailler established the first Swiss chocolate factory in 1819 near Vevey. Daniel Peter added milk in 1875 and Lindt invented conching, a rotary aeration process that gives chocolate its melt-in-the-mouth quality.

Today, Swiss chocolate has an international reputation for its high quality with many famous international chocolate brands:

Cailler holds the title as Switzerland's oldest chocolate company, as it was founded by François-Louis Cailler in 1819. François was born in Vevey, a town close to Lausanne (southern Switzerland), which had seven chocolate factories in the early 1800s. After owning a small shop, François purchased a factory in 1820 to produce chocolate on a large scale.

Founded by Henri Nestlé, the Nestlé company started off in 1867 as a small business that initially focused on baby formula. In 1905, after joining forces with Milkmaid, the first Nestlé chocolate was made. Later, in the 20th century, they developed more chocolates that are known today. They also branched out into the pharmaceutical industry and acquired Mövenpick Ice Cream, a Swiss ice cream brand.

Chocoladefabriken (Chocolate factory) Lindt & Sprüngli AG, more commonly known simply as Lindt, was founded in 1845 and is famous for its truffles and chocolate bars. The company started off as a small confectionery store in 1836, called Confiserie Sprüngli, and was run by a father and son: David Sprüngli-Schwarz and Rudolf Sprüngli-Ammann. They later acquired Rodolphe Lindt chocolate factory in 1899, and the name was changed to Lindt & Sprüngli. However, it is commonly known simply as Lindt.

Theodor Tobler created Toblerone in 1876 and was one of the first to explore different shapes for their chocolate bars. Their standard chocolate, instead of being a simple milk variety, is a mixture of nougat, almonds, and honey in a unique milk chocolate. Its predominant mountain logo pays tribute to the famous Swiss mountain, the Matterhorn.

Chocolatier Rudolf Läderach Jr. founded Glarus in 1962, which later was rebranded as Läderach in 2008. Rudolf developed the revolutionary truffles design, with a hollow, thin chocolate shell, which improved the manufacturing process of the truffles.

Many believe that the best Swiss chocolate is Lindt, with truffles that just melt in your mouth, followed by the unique chocolate bars made by Toblerone and Läderach. However, this is debated among the Swiss. Some believe that Cailler, with elegant boxes that are used for special occasions, is the finest Swiss chocolate, but that it doesn't receive the recognition it deserves, as it is not widely exported.