We met in front of the Basel Cathedral for our guided chocolate tour. This wasn’t any of the regular city tours in Basel Switzerland, it was a tour all about Swiss chocolates. We embarked on a journey into handmade Swiss chocolate, diving into the world of cocoa, and discovered new creations along with traditional classics. These were not your typical Swiss chocolate brands, like Lindt milk chocolate.
The History Of Chocolate
Fermented beverages from chocolate beans date back to somewhere between 450 BC and 300 AD in Mesoamerica. (There are several articles with various dates). It was believed by the Aztecs that the beans were a gift from the god of wisdom, Quetzalcoatl. At one time the seeds were considered so valuable, they were used as currency.
The cocoa beans were originally crushed and mixed with water and spices. This luxury drink was a bitter liquid believed to give strength to the consumer. It was consumed by the high society and at ceremonies in the Mayan culture. Cocoa beans were considered a gift of the gods and it was very valuable. Seen as a part of the home and spiritual culture it is one of the world’s trees. It’s a tree that connects all the spaces of life, the underworld, and the present life world.
Christopher Columbus initially brought the beans to Europe between 1502 and 1504. However, he had more interesting treasures that were discovered. It wasn’t until the Spanish Conquistador Don Hernán Cortés returned with the beans in 1528 when they slowly gained popularity. The chocolate drink slowly circulated throughout Europe, eventually getting to England in the 1650s.
Sugar was added to the drink in Europe in the 16th-century. Initially only consumed by the wealthy and elite, it slowly became popular with common people as more beans were cultivated and various forms of chocolate produced.
When talking about a ceremony, still nowadays, traditional South American communities will gather to make a decision for the community. Like the Mayan descendants, they will gather and have hot chocolate together. They say it opens them, allows them to connect, and spiritually allows them to make wiser decisions for the whole community.
Where is Basel?
The city of Basel is in Switzerland. It is not Basel France or Basel Germany. France and Germany border the city; however, it is Basel Switzerland. There are several things to do in Basel Switzerland.
- Basel: City Tour in a Vintage Streetcar
- Basel 4-Hour Private Tour
- Basel: Urban Art City Tour
- Basel: Zermatt & Gornergrat Matterhorn Area Train Trip
With a population of just over 171,000, it is Switzerland’s third-largest city and has four official languages – German, French, Italian, and Rumantsch.
Our First Stop
“A little chocolate heaven we have here in Basel,” States our tour guide. Our first stop is a place that offers high-end chocolate from all around the world. Chocolate that you really wouldn’t have access to or even know about, making it one of the best swiss chocolate to bring home. One of the chocolate companies just started in 2015. They work with farmers from Peru. They have invited them all to Switzerland and founded the company’s so they’re all stakeholders. The unique packaging is the names of the farms and women. They are focused on sustainability, fair trade, and unique artwork on the packaging. For every bar they sell they plant a new tree. The foil they used to cover the chocolate is made from biodegradable materials.
Another chocolate company just started last March by a girl from Zurich. She does what it’s called bean to bar chocolate making, basically farm to table. She does the whole process and she just works with cacao from 3 farms that she knows. These farms are friends of friends.
Another brand here is made by two Swiss architects. It started as just a way to have dark chocolate made for their clients. They have turned the small venture into winning awards at the chocolate Academy in London – it’s like the Oscars of the Chocolate world.
At this location, we sat down and had a cup of hot chocolate. With many varieties to choose from, I drank the best hot chocolate I have ever had in my life.
The Second Stop
The second stop on the tour was a swiss chocolatier that has been in its old town location since 1870. Here we enjoyed some chocolate bread while having a tour of the chocolate factory. We saw how various high-quality chocolates were made there, including hand-made chocolates. Here you can enjoy sweet and salty treats in the Tea Room on the main floor. The aromas lingering through the building are coming for the second floor, where everything is prepared according to old traditional recipes.
The Third Stop
Entering the third stop, we were asked “do you drink alcohol?” everyone responded with a yes. We made our way past the chocolate counter to an upstairs sitting area that look like it was the original 1800’s décor. The place was very busy, but we did find a small table to sit at. Here we learned about the categories and qualities of different chocolate. With one of the chocolates we tasted we were told: “make sure you put the entire chocolate in your mouth, do not bite it in half”. This chocolate was delicious. Biting into the entire chocolate as it was in my mouth, the liquid was quickly released from it. This chocolate is a Swiss-German tradition. The liquid liquor in the chocolate is made from the cherry trees around Basel.
The Fourth Stop
Our fourth stop was a quick stop. Walking through the town we were also receiving some history about Basel. As we passed by a large fancy chocolate shop, one person in the group made a comment about going in. Our guide told us she does not bring people into that chocolate place for a couple of reasons. One she only goes to places that work with Fair Trade Chocolate. Secondly, because they use Palm Oil. (Watch a short video on the horrendous environmental effects of the Palm Oil industry here.)
On our fourth stop, we sampled two chocolates including the “new” cherry chocolate. These are made from the controversially “new cherry cocoa bean”.
From there we took a Basel boat ride to our fifth and final stop.
The Final Stop
The final stop on the chocolate tour was in a small shop. Here was sat down and talked again about the different categories and qualities of chocolate. We also learned about the proper tasting techniques as we sampled more chocolate.
Not only will you try local swiss chocolate on this Basel walking tour, you will also discover some beautiful Basel architecture.
Visit Basel Switzerland
To book this tour and find try these amazing Swiss chocolates contact Xocotour Suisse here.
If you arrive via train at the Basel Train Station, and you are looking for hotels in Basel Switzerland, you should stay at the Hotel Euler. I enjoyed my stay there.