Blessed with dozens of heritage chocolate makers, Switzerland’s second largest city is a chocoholic's dream. Here's our pick of the best in town
Creamy, rich with cocoa butter, and sublimely smooth, the world may have a love affair with Swiss chocolate, but nobody enjoys it with an ardour to match the locals themselves. The average Swiss eats nearly 12kg a year – that's more chocolate than any other nation on earth.
Farvager Héritage chocolate
The Genevans, as fastidious and trim as the aesthetics of the city may appear, are no exception to this fixation with chocolate. The Swiss tradition dates back to the early 19th century, and a trip to almost any supermarket confectionery aisle is a sight to behold; there are chocolate chestnuts for sale in autumn and even chocolate flowers in spring.
To really get to the cocoa core, though, it's important, and in no sense unenjoyable, to learn about the different strains of chocolate which, in terms of variety and taste, are every bit as wide-ranging as Scottish whiskies or French cheese.
There are over 30 different chocolate makers in Geneva, all squeezed into the bijou confines of the city centre. This means that you can walk and sample more in a single morning than any pre-trip diet plan could ever possibly justify. For added indulgence, make Mandarin Oriental, Geneva, centrally located on the banks of the Rhône, your base.
Geneva's Auer store
Since the 1820s, the entire process of creating chocolate products, from cocoa bean to bar, has been done in-house at Favarger. Indeed, unleashing your own inner Willy Wonka is possible here, as you can craft your own concoctions in their workshop. You may be better off, though, simply taking home as many of their Héritage bars as you can carry. Flavours range from traditional milk chocolate with honey and almonds to dark chocolate with apricots.
If you're not sure where to begin, taste-wise, then it's wise to break down Swiss chocolate into four main types: milk (made with the condensed variety); dark (easily flavoured with fruit and, wonderfully, containing antioxidants that are reported to be good for the heart), white (made with cocoa butter, milk and vanilla essence), and, finally, chocolate truffles; these are usually covered in milk chocolate and filled with anything from mint to caramel, raspberries, Irish cream and nuts.
Geneva and the Jura Mountains
Whatever your personal preference is, one thing you can rely on is that no two Genevans will ever agree on which place produces the best chocolate in the city. Though when it comes to the most impressive roster of previous customers, it's hard to beat Du Rhône Chocolatier. Established in 1875, its pralines, and particularly its speciality, a coffee-infused chocolate known as Mocca Glacé, were firm favourites of Winston Churchill and Grace Kelly.
For what may be the ultimate evocation of the Swiss craving for cocoa, there are few places more atmospheric than Auer Chocolatier. Dating from 1939, the company is still run by the descendants of the original owner, Henri Auer.
Everything in this bijou establishment is done by hand, in-house, right down to the chocolate coatings on the black truffles. The store's cosy interior, with walls of honey-coloured wood, exudes a warm allure that is almost impossible to resist on a chilly winter morning.
Chocolate truffles at Du Rhône Chocolatier
Auer Chocolatier's ganaches have a praline and cream centre and a rich, deep chocolate coating, which can come with a topping of walnuts. But it is the company's Amandes Princesse chocolates that are capable of leaving even the most dedicated quality chocolate hunter in a state of euphoria.
Made with roasted almonds, milk chocolate and sprinkled with cocoa powder, the combination of the bitterness of the roasting and the sweet taste of the chocolate seems to perfectly sum up the Swiss approach to this ultimate guilty pleasure: addictive and alluring, but with a standard of quality that makes chocolate-eating feel gracious rather than gluttonous.