Published by Max Felchlin AG, Schwyz, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary. (2008)
Since my visit at Felchlin last summer 2010 and again this summer I must admit I’m addicted to there chocolate and there philosophy. This book is to interesting not to blog, so I must share this on my blog.
Foreword(Christian Aschwanden CEO Max Felchlin AG)
Everyone knows chocolate, and just about everyone loves it, but only a few people know how it ia actually made. In this book, we discribe the long journey “From the Finest Cocoa to Exquisite Chocolate”: each individual stage, from cultivation and fermantation to the journey and production, requires consummate skill and expertise. We invest a great deal of care, experience and time in transforming the seeds of these fruits from the tropical Rain Forest into melt-in-the-mouth chocolate.
Chocolate is more than just chocolate – the consumer is often uncritical in its selection and simply eats it without giving it a second thought. This book communicates knowledge about chocolate in order to increase th pleasure in its consumption and to enable a critical appreciation. We are passionate about production fine flavour chocolate, wich is the product of a variety of specialist processes tailored to achieve maximum pleasure.
Troughout its 100-year history and despite the incredible amount of change that has taken place during this period, our company has been consistently dedicated to pleasure. We produce chocolate in our small factory in Schwyz and are happy to share the secrets of its wonderfull flavours with those who really appreciate it. If this book transforms you from a chocolate eater to a chocolate connoisseur, then we have succeeded in what we set out to do.
A Gem Among Culinary Delights
Full Circle – Back to the Roots
The hunger for food and riches has changed the world. The voyages of discovery were inspired by the need for culinary treasures worth their weight in gold, namely by the search for spices that, 600 years ago, were precious and hugely valuable commodity available only in small quantities. However, the value of these spices went beyond the coffers of traders and princes and they unexpectedly infiltrated all levels of society. After Colombus landed on a Caribbean island in the New World in 1492, new foods started to enrich the menus of Europe.
Although the Spanish conquistadors were mainly interested in plundering the riches of the Mayas, Aztecs and Incas, they happened upon a veritable treasure trove of foods previously unknown in Europe and that are now integral part of our everyday diet. A small group of the most important South American products now account for a tremendous amount of the expenditure spent on groceries: potatoes, maize, tomatoes, beans, pineapple, avocado, papaya, peanuts, pumpin, turkeys, vanilla, tobacco — and cocoa. The tomato, although initially not even eaten in Europe but exhibited as an ornamental plant, is today the world’s most important vegetable.
The cocoa bean will never attain this status. However, it doesn’t have to, since it is already the undisputed number one in a very different ranking. Cocoa is one of the most valuable agricultural crops, the embodiment of luxury in its finest form: the luxury of time and pleasure.
The most wonderful luxury is time, perceived as a gift to be enjoyed. Not the time that is taken up with day-to-day choces but those truly precious moments when, freed from the demands of everyday life, we can sit back and indulge in a feeling of relaxation and calm, as well as look forward to forthcoming events, either with excitements or even with a certain trepidation.
Enjoyed in these circumstances, a pleasure is a truly precious and remerkable thing, especially if we allow it the time to develop its character, to reveal its complexity and uniqueness.
This is indeed, a pleasure, of course, chocolate. It is unique. Not only because its aromas beguile the senses but also because it demands that we make sacrifices. Sacrifices in terms of time, patience and also discipline. Chocolate denies greed, punishing exess with the heavy feeling of being sated. It only reveals its riches to those who are prepared to taste small pieces and to savour its hunderds of individual aromas.
Chocolate is something precious. A true gem amongst the culinary delights of the world, not only because the desire for a slim figure and fit body means that the comsumption of chocolate has come to be regarded as e reward; forgoing the devouring of chocolate with reckless abandon has paved the way for a more delicate enjoyment. We only eat a little chocolate, but what we eat, we eat selectively. We are not happy to settle for mass products and only want the very best. The bonus lies in enjoying the moment, a rare pleasure.
And so the circle closes. When, at the turn of the 16th century, the Spanish conquistadors first tasted chocolate in the New World, Columbus with little enthusiasm bur Cortés, who conquered Mexico, with the astute eye of the businessman, it was the drink of nobility and of ritual. And so, too, it was in Spain, at least for a century. The Portuguese then happened upon cocoa in Barzil and soon after planted the tree on the islands of Sao Tomé and Principe on the West African coast. Two daughters of the Spanish royal family took chocolate to France when they married into the French royal family. The new miracle drink spread via Italy, parts of which were under Spanish rule, to the Mediterranean. During the Rococo period, chocolate trickled down to the middle classes and, with the introduction of vital processing technologies, such as mechanical mills, cocoa-butter presses and conches, the end of the nineteenth century saw its transformation into solid chocolate, a rational, industrial product that became less and less expensuve and more affordable for all.
Chocolate was democratised and socialised. With the upturn in the economy after the Second World War, it became a mass product and lost its exclusive character.
Until, that is, high-handed fashion dictators declared war on thunder thighs and potbellies, forcing larger individuals into uncomfortable clothes and subjecting them to mockery and social ostracism. Chocolate and other rich foods were demonised and vilified as contributors to exess weight. However, the longing for the incorparable, unique flavour of cocoa cannot simply be excluded from our sensory life and relegated to a list of forbidden pleasures Certainly, we can accept the need for self-denial, but only in moderation. Chocolate should remain a carefully considered exception, a very precious gem The community of epicures has found its way back to the beginning, back to cocoa in its unadulterated form. Back to Criollo, the highest quality bean that, half a millennium ago, so amazed and delighted the palates of the Europeans.
However, this chocolate is not without its demands. It refuses to be simply devoured. It keeps its aromas locked away until the palate is ready to allow the heavenly pleasure to melt on the tongue.
So it’s not surprising that the natural scientist Carl von Linné gave the cocoa plant the botanical name Theobroma cacao, meaning “food of the gods”. The Swedish natural scientist who also fell under the spell of chocolate, was not just allowing his imagination free reign, he was also alluding to the traditions of the Mexican Indians who glorified the consumption of the fruit of the cacao tree a s a privilege enjoyed by the gods.