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Monday, August 20, 2012

Day 5 - Maison Cailler Chocolate Factory

The other highlight of the day was to visit a chocolate factory in Broc, a place just outside Gruyeres.

I don't particular crazy for chocolate, but somehow it's like a dream comes true when I finally got the chance to visit a chocolate factory. 

Cailler of Switzerland is one of the largest Swiss chocolate manufacturers and claims to be the oldest brand in the chocolate business. Cailler has been producing chocolate since 1810 in Vevey and since 1898 in Broc. 

Cailler was the first who manufactures chocolate slabs, and has been part of the Nestle group since 1929, but it still operates largely independently. 

A large Cailler shop sells the locally produced chocolate while a small cafe serves marvelous hot chocolate and small snacks.

Switzerland's long love affair with chocolate began back in 1819, when Francois-Louis Cailler discovered a recipe during a visit to Italy. When he returned to Switzerland, he set up the first Swiss chocolate factory in Vevey in 1819. 

In 1825, he opened a second factory, which he later sold to his son Julian and son-in-law Daniel Peter. His great innovation was the development of a smooth chocolate that could be formed into bars. 

Charles-Amedee Kohler was one of the eminent Swiss confectionery manufacture. In 1830, he invented hazelnut chocolate. 

In 1875, Daniel Peter had the idea of combining the chocolate with his neighbor Henri Nestle to make milk chocolate. The Caillers and Peter eventually merges with the operation of Charles-Amedee Kohler to form the firm of Peter, Cailler, Kohler. The company was later purchased by manufacturing giant, Nestle, in 1929. 

The very 1st logo plate of Cailler chocolate.

We have signed up to an English speaking tour. For this, we have waited for about 30 minutes before it's time for our departure. 

The Cailler chocolate factory is very family friendly cause children under 16 can enter FOC with adults. 

I was expecting the usual, bored, heavily accented tour guide who would walk us from room to room reciting her spiel. Surprisingly, I found that we were to enter a self-locking room with no tour guide, but mechanized exhibits, automatically spotlighted when featured by the recorded narration about the history of chocolate. 

The visit traces the history of the factory from 1898 to the present, from Aztecs performed sacred ceremonies with chocolate drinks in one chamber, the Spanish brought cocoa beans to Europe from Central America when we entered another, and the story of Francois-Louis Cailler came to life in the next.

Generally speaking, the tour was great, very well done and interesting. At first, the boys were a little scared when the doors opened and closed automatically and shut us in a room while a voice explained about the history of chocolate and the factory. But they get used of it very fast. 

The tour is also hands-on, where the visitors can reach into burlap bag filled with cocoa beans and compare the aromas of different varieties. 

The major raw material in making the chocolate, cocoa beans. 

Most of the visitors just couldn't resist to put those roasted hazel nut into their mouth. Well, I was one of them. 

I ate quite a lot of this almond nuts too, cause they are my favorite, ok.

Near the end of the tour, we could see the manufacturing process of the chocolate foil-wrapped. 

The production line is not a very large scale, and sampling is largely unsupervised.

This automated line looks quite similar to our factory's production line of LCD. 

The outgoing area, I believe. The tour is ended here. 

Visitors are welcome to write down little something on a card and then, hang it on the wall. William was not willing to show his to me. After he had finished, I saw him hang the card there, but I couldn't find it as he ran away. Weird. 

Anyway, I found Vincent's. He gave very good comment about the factory, bet the management would feel happy to see it. 

To the delight of everyone, a free tasting of fresh-made chocolate bars awaits us at the end of the production line.

Vincent is happy to experience this, eat as much chocolate as he can, for free. 

There is no signage limiting our intake, no black-faced standing guard, and no usher hurrying us through the room. As the trays are empty, a quiet staff member slips in and and replaces them, constantly, repeatedly, heavenly. 

The boys were thrill to see all those chocolate served to them, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, truffles, filled, creamed and whipped chocolate....enough to taste them at one time. 

All trays are labeled with their name so that the visitors can clearly identify their favorites when they step into the final stage of the tour, the gift shop. I think the factory can easily recover the loss in the chocolate testing room by doing so.

But chocolate had become such a common desserts in the recent years, that most people won't feel any special about them anymore. I guess that's the consequences of mass production. 

I am not particular about chocolate, but judging from its fantastic smell and creamy taste, I feel Cailler chocolate should be a high quality one. 

If one is not content with the normal factory tour, he / she can sign up for a personal workshop, where they will learn how to make chocolate by themselves. 

In summary, the visit to Cailler chocolate factory and Maison cheese factory, combining with the visit to Gruyeres, had made this trip a very pleasant experience. 


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