Discover how a small country became a big chocolate producer. By Wibke Carter • Photographs Courtesy Wibke Carter
If you ask what people associate with Switzerland, many will answer: cheese, banks, and chocolate. It is not without reason that Swiss chocolate enjoys the reputation of being one of the best. But how did a tiny European country which didn’t grow cocoa beans and had to import expensive ingredients like sugar become one of the world’s most important chocolate producers?
History of Chocolate Let us go back a few years—or even a millennium. The history of chocolate starts in Mesoamerica when the Olmecs discovered a strange tree with bitter tasting seeds around 3000 years ago. “Grinding the beans and mixing it with rainwater, the liquid cocoa they called ‘Xocolatl’ gained considerable significance in their culture,” says Margaux Cañellas, a guide on the Chocolate Tour Geneva. “Originally only priests, royalty and those destined to be sacrificed were allowed to drink it. It was a divine gift.”