Join me on a chocolate tour at the Lindt Home of Chocolate near Zurich, Switzerland. We’ll discover how chocolate is made and how the precious coca bean travelled to Europe.
The experience is truly magical – and delicious.
This January I went to Switzerland’s Chocolate Museum with no expectations. The purpose of my Swiss trip was to visit some dear friends, I’d never expect to enjoy the museum this much and to even write a blogpost about it.
The museum is just a short walk away from either a bus stop or a train station, around 30 minutes from Zurich city centre. Our friends were exceptional guide tours so the trip was particularly easy for us, but anyone at Zurich station’s information desk will be able to direct you.
On your walk to the museum, you’ll see many signages, but it’s impossible to get it wrong as the museum is next to the Lindt factory and the entire town smells like a chocolate box, just follow your nose.
The white building says in golden big letters ‘Lindt, Home of Chocolate’. Step in and be welcomed by the biggest chocolate fountain you’ll ever see in your life. It’s over nine meters tall, with 1,500 kg of chocolate flowing through it. I wish I brought my swimsuit – just kidding!
Lockers and restrooms are available on the first floor and don’t forget to get the free audioguide before you start your visit.
The building is massive and it has also a huge Lindt chocolate shop (500 square meters!), make sure to allow at least two hours and a half for your trip.
In the first room, you are surrounded by cocoa trees, transported to Ghana, far away from the Swiss cold weather. Here I learnt the long journey of cocoa, the main ingredient of chocolate.
The cocoa tree is quite magic, and it often bears fruit in the forms of pods and flowers at the same time. This means you can have the fruit throughout the entire year; however, cocoa is mainly harvested in Ghana between October and February, the dry months.
Interestingly, small-scale farmers produce 95% of the coca worldwide and large plantations are mainly in Central and South America.
Allow me here to do a small but important detour. Most of farmers growing cocoa experience horrible conditions without a living income. Cocoa trade fosters problems like discrimination, exploitation, and deforestation. Fairtrade chocolate and a responsible consumption is truly our only option to guarantee a future to cocoa farmers, future consumption of this very popular product, and ultimately our beloved planet.
Now with this in mind, let’s continue our visit.
You can see how chocolate is made at the museum! A cocoa pod contains around 30 to 60 beans. Cocoa beans can be eaten raw, they are packed with vitamins, but they are incredibly bitter, have you ever tried one?
After the beans have been removed from the pods, they are fermented under banana leaves for around 5 days. This process is essential to develop flavour and reduce bitterness.
After the fermentation, the pods are still full of water, and they need to be dried out in the sun.
After around two weeks, they can be roasted. This helps to sterilise them and taking the shell off the beans. Now only the ‘nib’ is left, the most precious part of the bean.
The nib is grounded and then continuously mixed at a specific temperature to remove moisture and break down large pieces. This can take up to 5 days.
The chocolate mass is then tempered. This step is incredibly difficult and possible only thanks to the art and knowledge of the master chocolatiers.
The chocolate heritage
The visit now continues showing how the bean travelled from Central America to Europe.
Mayans, Aztecs and other Mesoamerica’s civilizations discovered cacao and used it as a currency and in the most sacred rituals from birth to death.
A tragic story reports how Aztec king Montezuma warmly welcomed the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes and his crew with drinking chocolate, mistaking him for a god rather than the merciless invader he truly was. The foreigners weren’t used to such bitter taste and described it as a ‘bitter drink for pigs’…how wrong they were.
The conquistadors soon changed their mind though. They quickly fell in love with cacao by adding a pinch of sugar and warm water. Chocolate is known as Chocolatls, ‘drink made from cacao’, from then on.
Dominican monks are the ones who brought the magic drink back to their homeland – often in history, the Church have been privileged enough to be the first one to savour new food delicacies.
One of my favourite anecdotes from the museum is how some priests lobbied the Pope to drink hot choc during Lent. The Pope granted official permission – after all this is a drink not solid food, hot choc doesn’t break the fast. As sly as a fox!
Moving on to a new room, we explore the Swiss chocolate heritage and discover how Swiss pioneers revolutionised the world of chocolate in the 19th century. To me this part was an eye opener, I never understood why Switzerland became so important in chocolate history. The answer is simple: cows and their milk, and yeah probably great wit and inventions too.
The last rooms are ‘such stuff as dreams are made on’: you get to taste all the chocolate you want. Imagine dripping chocolate fountains, chocolate bars dropping from the ceiling, and a table of all kinds of Lindt chocolate…as many as you like! Pinch me I must be dreaming!
With pockets and belly full of chocolate #noregrets, you can walk past the last rooms of the museum admiring the Lindt chocolate production, where the ‘experience and passion of Master Chocolatiers meet the latest technology and efficient machines’ as they say.
At the end they give you a gift, but I won’t be the one spoiling the surprise.
Let me know if you have the chance to visit the museum and if not, I hope I managed to bring you along with me with this post 😊