I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to get here. But finally, on a stormy Sunday, we made the short trek over to Lac de la Gruyere (yes, famous for the awesome cheese) in order to experience the highest experience in a chocolate-lover’s life – the chocolate factory.
Maison Cailler seems so elegant for a factory. Like, I wouldn’t expect Willy Wonka to approve. Or maybe this is where Wonka puts on his evening jacket and has a snifter of cognac. (Or whatever elegant people do. Personally, if I’m not sporting at least a small bit of baby vomit I’m feeling pretty elegant.)
I had read that on busy days, the lineup to get into the factory can be up to two and half hours! I couldn’t believe it. You can tell from the photo here that the end of January isn’t really a busy time – we didn’t even have to wait outside in the rain.
As soon as you buy your ticket you’re a part of the tour – don’t be late! A tour starts every five minutes or so, and you must be in place to get going … or else. Like all things in Switzerland, the tour was prompt and efficient and ticked along like clockwork.
The first part of the tour was a history of chocolate. Each tour group follows a maze of rooms, guided bydoors that slide open and shut automatically. My favourite tidbits about chocolate I learned was that initially it was renounced by European churches as being sinful and capable of making women go crazy. But then the Jesuits liked it so much the churches decided it was probably okay. Also, apparently Marie Antoinette asked for a cup of hot chocolate as her last meal before the guillotine.
That part of the tour is made to be a bit entertaining, with some effects and darkness. As a result, X immediately was not pleased, jumped into Z’s arms and announced it was time to go home (in that way, I have to say, he’s a lot like his Mama). But with sufficient cuddles and hiding of the face, he was able to get past the scary Mayan gods and such and was able to enjoy the tour. And good thing he did, because what a payoff!
We got to watch as chocolate bars were manufactured before our eyes. I enjoyed the “enrobing” process where the delicious nougat centre is covered in melted chocolate then immediately cooled. We also learned how a cocoa bean becomes chocolate. I had always thought that white chocolate wasn’t chocolate at all, but it is – it’s made from the cocoa butter mixed with sugar and milk, without any of the darker cocoa powder. I learned so much about chocolate that day!
Completely fascinated by a film about how chocolate is made. As you can see, X has already been sampling the wares.
But the very end of the tour is where the magic really happens. I ate so. much. chocolate. There were so many samples put out of deliciousness, it was like heaven.
And the thing is, this is the really good stuff. This is Swiss chocolate made in the heart of Swiss dairy land with all the best chocolate-based produce you can get. Switzerland has spoiled me for chocolate FOREVER. Once you have this, how do you go back?
Some satisfied chocolate tasters. My god, X had so much sugar that day I’m surprised he wasn’t levitating. For him, there is no such thing as too much chocolate. It is his favourite and only food group. He did not want to leave. At all. Actually, he was pretty sweet (pun intended) and fell asleep on the two hour drive home. Another successful Swiss adventure!