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Chocolate (Schokolade, chocolat, cioccolata) is a way of life in Switzerland. The Swiss eat a world record ten and a half kilos of the stuff per person per annum – roughly one ordinary-sized bar for every single person, every day of the year. Conscripts in the Swiss army get free chocolate, wrapped in special foil bearing the Swiss flag, and adults bring each other chocolate as a dinner-party gift.
Swiss chocolate is held by many aficionados to be the best in the world, rich with scrupulously high levels of expensive cocoa butter, super-smooth, and above all creamy – the industry imports most ingredients except milk, which comes in fresh from the clover-munching Alpine herds.
Chocolate is seasonal in Switzerland, with the usual Easter bunnies padded out during the year with chocolate chestnuts and chocolate mushrooms in autumn, and chocolate flowers in spring. Chocolate is regional, too, with chocolatiers in the Jura making presentation boxes of chocolate watches, Bern producing elaborate chocolate bears, Geneva turning out stacks of little chocolate marmites (cauldrons full of marzipan “vegetables”) for the Escalade festival each December, and Zürich making miniature chocolate Bööggs for the Sechseläuten spring festival.
Switzerland has had since 1819 to perfect its chocolate-making, and these days there are three big names: Nestlé is the biggest, having taken over most Swiss competitors (and many international ones too); Suchard, now owned by Philip Morris, remains well respected; but perhaps Lindt has the edge, still an independent concern with its own famous Sprüngli outlets in Zürich. Even if the chichi chocolatiers of Geneva, Basel and Zürich are beyond your means, a bar of two of Lindt is worth the indulgence.
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