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5
October
2005

Lindt Factory Tour

Lindt Chocolate

After spending several days in Switzerland, eating the best food and chocolate the country had to offer, my only remaining desire is to desire chocolate once again. I am so full I think it will be awhile until my chocolate cravings return to normal, but for now I am as content as a chocoholic could ever be.

The purpose of my trip was to tour the Lindt & Sprungli chocolate factory, a privilege bestowed on few since the process involved in producing high quality chocolate is a well-guarded secret. Several years ago Lindt conducted factory tours, but critical components of the production process were leaked to competitors and tours were stopped. This past week Lindt offered a tour to members of the press, and I was able to attend through my work with Chocolatier magazine. A total of 12 press members flew in from the US, and we spent five days together getting to know each other and some of the finest chocolate in Switzerland.

When I first entered Switzerland the passport control officer asked me if the purpose of my visit was personal or business. I was unsure how to answer since chocolate always brings me personal pleasure, but the truth was I was there on business. After I told him my purpose was to visit the Lindt chocolate factory his eyes lit up and he proclaimed that Lindt was the best chocolate in the world. Everyone in Switzerland seems to love Lindt chocolate, and it could be found everywhere from the airport lounge to the hotel lobby.

Before entering the factory area, we stopped in a conference room to hear speeches from Lindt staff members. As expected, the executives told us about Lindt’s commitment to excellence, quality ingredients and innovative products, but an unexpected treat came from the last speech by Master Chocolatier Geller. Mr. Geller has been with Lindt for over 45 years and is just like you would imagine a chocolatier from a small Swiss town to be; grey hair covered by a large, floppy toque and glasses at the tip of his nose.

Mr. Geller at the podium

Mr. Geller has a thick German accent but had no trouble communicating his passion for chocolate to the English speaking audience. He would often come around the podium and put his fingertips against his lips and say with a slow, lowered voice, “You must savor zee chocolate in your mooth.” Once the audience realized “mooth” meant “mouth” we had to stop ourselves from laughing, but it confirmed that Mr. Geller is a real Swiss chocolatier. He then led us in a chocolate tasting session, where we tried the Orange Intense Excellence bar and 70%, 85% and the new 99% dark chocolate bars. Between each of the tastings Mr. Geller would say “Please, to neutralize” and we would cleanse our palettes with tea or water.

Mr. Geller offering chocolate

Our chocolate scoring sheets

The Orange Intense Excellence bar was outstanding, and I find myself still eating the sample bar I took home with me. The biggest surprise was that many of the press members preferred the new 99% dark chocolate (almost pure cacoa) to the more common 85%.

Orange Intense bars

When it came time for the factory tour we had to put on white lab coats and hairnets and scrub down like we were getting ready for surgery. The factory is very sterile and exactly the opposite of Willy Wonka’s, with big machines doing most of the work, not little green men. I did hear an occasional loud horn, but didn’t see any small children fall down a chute. The production of the chocolate is done on the ground floor, which is very warm and sparsely populated. Most of this process is mechanized, with time and temperature closely regulated by large machines. The critical step in producing the chocolate is the conching process, invented by Mr. Lindt in 1879. The conch turns grainy chocolate into the smooth form we have today by continuously pressing and aerating the chocolate to melt the molecules and remove stale odors. Originally, over 80 conching machines were used to press the chocolate, but today 4 large conching machines do all the work.

Once the chocolate is made it travels up long ramps to the floor above where it is pressed into molds or filled to become truffles. The most amazing part of the tour was watching the machine that wraps the individual Lindor truffles at work. It wraps 12 truffles per second, over 700 a minute, and moves so fast you can’t see the actual wrapping taking place. There are at least twice as many people in the packaging area as in the chocolate production area, since many of the products (like the pistachio truffles) are too delicate to make with a machine.

Switzerland consumes the most chocolate of any country in the world at 11 kg per capita/per year, with the US consuming less than half that at 5.4 kg per capita/per year. (Interestingly enough Switzerland also has the highest life expectancy of any country at 77.8 years for men and 88 years for women. Coincidence? I think not.) Lindt is the dominant chocolate maker in Switzerland, and I believe is in the best position to become the preferred source for chocolate in America. Unlike American chocolate companies, Lindt has been dedicated to high-quality dark chocolate for over 150 years, and has the development and distribution process in place to make dark chocolate available to the masses without having to acquire smaller specialty companies or redefine their recipes. (A lesser known fact is that they also own San Francisco based Ghirardelli Chocolate.)

Lindt is already available in most U.S. grocery stores, and they hope to expand their retail presence in America over the next few years. As America’s appreciation for high quality dark chocolate grows I believe we’ll soon find Lindt up front in the display cases, not just hidden in the back aisles with baking ingredients.

Lindt & Sprungli
www.lindt.com

Ghirardelli Chocolate
www.ghirardelli.com

p.s. I hope to have pictures of the factory up soon, so please check back.

p.p.s. I recieve a large amount of spam through the comments form, so all comments are submitted for approval. You will see them posted on the site as soon as I approve them. Thanks for your patience!



22 COMMENTS SO FAR...

Beastmomma says on October 6th, 2005 at 11:00 am:

That sounds like a lot of fun!

Cheryl says on October 6th, 2005 at 7:21 pm:

Kelli and the chocolate factory…Ahhhh what a vision! Sounds like your having a great time, can’t wait to see the pics.

lori says on October 7th, 2005 at 6:39 pm:

This was an outstanding post, Kelli. What fun you must have had. I look forward to the next post.

W. Wonka says on October 8th, 2005 at 12:58 am:

My dear Kelli,

One of my trusted Oompa Loompas alerted me to your blog. I wouldn’t count on finding any golden tickets if I were you!

Jennifer says on October 8th, 2005 at 7:08 am:

What and incredible experience!. My mouth is watering! I always knew chocolate was good for you. I can’t wait to try their 99% chocolate.

Karen says on October 8th, 2005 at 8:46 am:

Ahhhhhhh. I’m already hungry now I need some of Lindt’s chocolate. I need to work with these people. But, wait a minute, I’d eat it all up before I got to make it .

Latifa says on October 9th, 2005 at 12:32 pm:

oh lucky you. i wish to visit lindt factory some day. i like there 70%. i definatily would like to taste the new 99% bar. Many Thanks for bringing up this topic.

zorra says on October 23rd, 2005 at 3:14 am:

I have a friend who was working some years ago during summer holiday at the Lindt factory. She told me that the staff can eat as much chocolate you can but only inside the factory. After this holiday she could not see any chocolate for a while. ;-)

norma rightler says on October 26th, 2005 at 4:58 pm:

I would like to know where i can purchase the lindt 99% cocoa bar in the usa or on line. I purchased one in vienna for my son and he loved it.Please let me know how i can get more. thanks

Kelli says on October 26th, 2005 at 7:07 pm:

Hi Norma — The 99% bar isn’t out in the U.S. yet, but as soon as it becomes available it will be sold at the Lindt retail stores (they just opened one up on 5th avenue in NYC). I’m not sure when they’ll finally get it in the stores here (they are definitely planning to bring it over though). In the meantime, you can try the Scharffenberger 99% or if you live in NYC, Chocolate Bar also carries a 99% bar.

Lena says on October 26th, 2005 at 11:17 pm:

Mmm, Lindt chocolates are my favorite. For your Bay Area readers, there is a Scharffen Berger Factory tour in Berkeley.

http://www.scharffenberger.com/tour_main.php

Also, the Ghiradelli Factory store in San Leandro has a lot of discounted chocolate and gift bastkets.

http://www.ghirardelli.com/shops/factory.html

=d

Nahal says on November 17th, 2005 at 5:20 am:

U R MY HERO :)

AugustusGloop says on November 29th, 2005 at 12:07 am:

OMG I am so jealous! A press tour of the Lindt factory! Wow. I was despondent when I headed to Switzerland and found out they didn’t do tours. Thanks so much for sharing the experience and the great photos as well!

Lovescool - For the Love of Dessert » Blog Archive » Food Writing Internship says on November 11th, 2006 at 3:49 pm:

[...] I loved my brief stint as a member of the press. Although I was just an editorial assistant, I was treated like royalty. Free food, free books and access to great events. I even got to fly to Switzerland, business class, to tour a chocolate factory. While my experience may have been unusual (I hear most entry-level writers and interns spend their time photocopying), being a member of the press certainly has its advantages. [...]

Busywork says on November 12th, 2006 at 11:31 am:

[...] On the Lovescool website, there is a wonderful account of a tour around the Lindt chocolate factory in Switzerland (not open to the public, sadly…).   [...]

Betting Games Sites SlotsMachines says on January 31st, 2007 at 9:06 pm:

This is one super duper site

Christy C says on March 20th, 2007 at 2:00 am:

I have to admit I went to visit my Grandma several years and did get to tour the Lindt Factory in Switzerland and it was even better then one could imagine; I even went home with about a 4 lb box of samples. When I went they had trays of samples everywhere and I have to admit it was the only time in my life I ever overdosed on chocolate.

Olivia says on April 12th, 2007 at 8:04 am:

Growing up in Switzerland (and with chocies) was fab…and having lived in New Zealand for 7 years it was very exciting to see Lindt spreading their wings and making THE BEST CHOCOLATE IN THE WORLD available for everyone. And when I relocated to NYC in Nov last year, I nearly went down on my knees and cried when I spotted the Lindt-shop on 5th Ave. Needless to say, I am regular customer now and visit it frequently.
When I was 16, I also worked in the factory and my friend and I ate as much as we wanted and could, after a couple of days, it was brekkie, lunch and dinner off the conveyer belt…we gained 5kgs of weight, were sick for two weeks after with a stomach bug (or shall I say ‘sugar overload’?) but funny enough, our love and obsession for chocolate came back soon after!

Jefferson City says on April 16th, 2007 at 9:52 pm:

great

Tay says on September 18th, 2007 at 5:42 am:

Hey Kelly and all you other Lindt Luvers,
WOW!!! I love Lindt Chocies, and i buy them as often as possible. There is no chocolates in the world that are better than lindt.
I would die to go to the Lindt factory, and have a tour, or to work in there, well it would be a dream come true. Ask any of my friends and they will tell you i am the biggest chocaholic. And Lindt is my absolute favorite.
I am so jealous of you kelly, and of you Olivia, you guys are so lucky.
Bye Tay *:)

katerina molyet says on February 5th, 2008 at 6:51 pm:

i thought that the page is so true about the lindt chocolate. i am doing a report on this and i like it.

lulu says on February 17th, 2008 at 5:43 pm:

im doing a speesch on Lindor and this site gave me a lot of information! im so happy that you made this site! thank you!



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