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Max Chocolatier Special Edition



Dear Reader The recipe for a good life calls for many select ingredients, which, if carefully mixed, lead to true happiness. That is why the Swiss travel magazine Transhelvetica continually searches for secret destinations, adventures, and other tips that lend life its special flavour. On one of our “expeditions” we discovered Max Chocolatier and their incredibly tasty chocolate. Wrapped with style and humour, the handcrafted chocolates not only look perfect, but also trigger a firework of different flavours on the tongue. This must be the taste of pure indulgence! And ever since we made this discovery, we cannot pass through Lucerne or stroll through Jon Bollmann Publisher Transhelvetica

Zurich without giving in to temptation, stopping at the chocolate boutique for a little escape from our daily routines. For our “Max” themed issue, we were granted a look behind the scenes at Max Chocolatier. The magazine sold out, so we’ve reprinted this story as a special edition. We hope you enjoy reading it – and perhaps we’ll even inspire you to discover Max Chocolatier for yourself!

Cover Paper cut by Maria Schneider Photographed by Tamara Janes, Editorial portrait Alex Wydler,



Inspiration Max

← A chocolate factory for a chocolate lover: Max König takes pride in his very own chocolate factory.

Max & the Chocolate Factory A chocolate fairy tale from Lucerne

When Max König was a little boy, he had to work hard to keep up with the other children. Today, he is the proud owner of one of Switzerland’s best chocolate factories. Chocolate “river” included. Text Jon Bollmann

Picture: Samatha Scott

Whenever Max snacks on the sweet treats from his own factory, his eyes start to shine and his taste buds dance like the coloured lights on a Ferris wheel. But to understand this flavourful magic, let us go back a few years – or even millennia. The Discovery of the Chocolate Tree The history of chocolate starts in Mesoamerica, where, 3000 years ago, the Olmecs discovered a tree with strange fruit. The pulp of these fruits was refreshing and their beans had a bittersweet aftertaste. The Olmecs must have liked it; in any case, the fruit of the cacao tree soon gained considerable significance in their culture. Declaring its origin divine, they annually held a sacrificial celebration in its honour. Not without reason, perhaps, as the liquid cocoa they made from the beans of the cacao tree had an intoxicating effect. Only the aristocracy and participants of important ceremonies, such as priests and those destined to be sacrificed, were allowed to drink it. Hernán Cortés, the most ruthless conqueror in Central America, observed that the best cacao beans were not only processed to be consumed, but also served as currency (a good slave was worth about 100 beans). He brought a few bags of the precious resource back to Europe. However, in the Old World, cacao beans were

not an accepted means of payment and the taste of the unprocessed fruit did not appeal to European palates. Only after people started to balance its bitterness with the sweetness of honey and cane sugar, did the cacao bean conquer our part of the world. Served as cocoa, it gained popularity in European high society. Soon, no social event of any significance could do without the exquisite drink. Chocolate Comes to Switzerland Since its ingredients were expensive, chocolate long remained a luxury item. Common people from the lower or middle classes only got a taste of the sweet flavour of Middle America when illness struck. Until the 19th century, chocolate was seen as a tonic and healing potion. It was therefore sold in pharmacies. With the advent of industrialisation and the advance of global trade, however, chocolate became more affordable. As prices came down, its appeal spread beyond the affluent elites. In 1819, François-Louis Cailler founded Switzerland’s first fully mechanised chocolate manufacture in Vevey. Others followed. Switzerland’s global reputation as a chocolate nation is in large parts due to three men: Henri Nestlé, Daniel Peter – Cailler’s son-in-law who invented milk chocolate –, and Rodolphe Lindt. The latter pioneered


Max & the Chocolate Factory

Rivers of Chocolate Having found the right suppliers, Patrik König and his father took on board a young chocolatier who had won the 2nd prize in the World Chocolate Masters. The three of them holed up in an atelier at the heart of Lucerne Switzerland Is Hooked The most fervent advocates and best consumers of Swiss where they started to experiment with the painstakingly chocolate are the Swiss themselves; a third of the nation- collected flavours and explore different combinations. al production is consumed within the country. One of Though their laboratory offers fantastic views – over the the families contributing to Switzerland’s high per cap- lake promenade, the many swans and proud ships of Lake ita consumption is the König family. Like so many other Lucerne – the three chocolate innovators had no time Swiss, they can never get enough of good chocolate. So to revel in the beauty of their surroundings. Amidst the it is perhaps no surprise that Patrik König, who travelled rich smell of cocoa and rivers of white, brown, and black the world as a banker and watch retailer, sought out and Grand Cru chocolate, they worked tirelessly to create tried the best chocolate wherever he went. Driven by his new recipes. They would settle for nothing less than love for chocolate, he visited exquisite, small ateliers in chocolate that would enchant the city, the country, and Brooklyn and Paris, in Barcelona, Tokyo, and Brussels. at some point, the world. Little by little he realised that Switzerland, though it Once the recipes began to match the founder’s expectproduces excellent industrial chocolate, plays a minor ations, the enterprise needed a catchy name and the role in the production of handmade chocolate. Being a chocolates stylish packaging. Patrik König therefore chocolate aficionado as well as a gourmet with an aware- turned to his wife, Hilda Chédel. The native Salvadorian had many years of experience in ness for Swiss quality and tradition, marketing and an affinity for cacao. Patrik König made the (for him) obWherever she went, she spread that vious choice. He wanted to remedy joy of life otherwise typical for the this shortcoming; Switzerland was to home of the cacao tree. Soon, Hilda become the home of a manufacture had infused the chocolate atelier with of unique, high-quality chocolate and her Central American charm. She handmade truffles – chocolate, the made sure – then as she does now – like of which Switzerland had never that the little chocolate wonders are tasted before. And thus, the idea to presented perfectly and yet, with a produce his own chocolate took hold dash of humour. Investing her energy and grew … not only into providing the truffles, Flavour Expeditions dragées, and chocolate bunnies with When the bookstore situated next appropriate “outfits”, but also into to his watch store in Lucerne closed, refining the recipes, she proved to be Close: Max and Patrik König. Patrik König seized the opportunity. a valuable asset for the young choco­­­ Together with his father, with whom late brand. he shared his passion for chocolate and for quality, he embarked on the adventure. Since the best chocolate can Max Chocolatier only be produced from the best ingredients, they started As the preparations for the opening of their very own chocolate boutique were in full swing, there was one by scouring the globe for high-quality resources. Someone who knows the high standards of the König fam­ thing the König family looked forward to in particular: ily is Heini Schwarzenbach, the owner of the Schwarzen- the festive unveiling of the large sign above the door, on bach specialty store in Zurich. There the Königs regularly the day of the opening. Everyone involved knew what it discover spices and order flavours from all over the world. would say. After all, the adventure had blossomed into In extensive tasting sessions with friends and specialists, a true family enterprise. And while there had been disthese flavours are tested and the favourites chosen: cacao agreements and discussions about certain details of the beans from Latin America, vanilla from Tahiti, almonds new chocolate boutique – as there are even in the most from California, hazelnuts from Piedmont, alpine milk functional of families – there was something, or rather from Uri, and honey from the blooming meadows on the someone, they never fought about. Someone who could shores of Lake Lucerne. Another important partner is always bring them together and united them. That someMax Felchlin’s company, one of the best producers of one is Max. Grand Cru couverture chocolate in the world. For the Max is Patrik’s son and the hero of the König family. Königs, Felchlin not only developed an exclusive cou- He has more than others, for he was born with an verture, the company also provides them with such rare additional chromosome. And though that renders his life specialties as wild cacao from the Bolivian jungle, or fine difficult at times, Max embodies what his family seeks to stand for with their chocolate: honesty and contentment. cacao from Madagascar.


Picture left: Samatha Scott / Picture right: Lee Jakob

a refining process, called conching, through which choco­late can be made palatable without the necessary addition of honey and sugar.

A land of milk and chocolate: liquid chocolate flows from the faucet in the chocolate atelier.

Artisanal: each chocolate is finished by hand with a cooled stamp.


Max & the Chocolate Factory

Bean to Bar Fresh from the Tree Once ripe, the fruit of the cacao tree, the so-called pods, are harvested. They are then cut open with machetes and the sticky white pulp, which contains the beans, is scooped out. Taking the Heat The beans and the pulp are wrapped in banana leaves and left to ferment at temperatures of up to 45 – 50 degrees Celsius (113 – 122 degrees Fahrenheit). During this process, the pulp evaporates or drains away, and the beans undergo a short period of germination before the rising temperatures and the acidity kill off the beans’ germination capacity. While the germination is crucial for achieving the desired taste in the end product, killing off the germination capacity preserves the beans for transport, trade, and further processing. As the cell walls break down and the cell sap spreads in the bean, the fermentation process alleviates the bean’s bitterness and gives rise to the chemical compounds that will later develop into the typi­ cal chocolate flavours. After five to six days, the fermentation process is completed and the beans are spread out to dry in the tropical sun. This once again increases their storage life and further develops the desired flavours. Once water content has decreased from around 60% to 5%, the beans are ready to be shipped to the chocolate factory. Welcome to the Chocolate Factory Arriving at the chocolate factory, the beans are thoroughly cleaned. Depending on the variety, the desired quality and taste, the beans are roasted for 15 – 60 minutes at temperatures of 100 – 140 degrees Celsius (212 – 284 degrees Fahrenheit). During the roasting process, the beans turn the typical chocolate colour and fully develop all of their over 400 flavours. As a next step, crushing the beans or slinging them against a metal plate cracks the shells, which are then separated from the pieces of the broken beans. These resulting cocoa nibs still contain a few unwanted flavours which will later be eliminated through conching. Grinding Tasks As the nibs are ground, their cell structure is broken down and cocoa butter is released. The heat caused by the friction melts the cocoa butter which envelops the increasingly smaller nibs. The dry cocoa nibs thus turn into a liquid paste, the so-called cocoa liquor. Mixed with sugar, milk, and spices, this paste already tastes like chocolate, though it still has a sandy texture on the tongue. Smooth It Out To achieve a soft, silky texture, the chocolate paste is ground once again, until the solids in the paste are tiny. This process has a significant effect on the flavour of the finished product, since it turns the nibs into tiny, rugged, porous particles and separates the solids from the cocoa butter.

Picture: Lee Jakob

Stir It Up To once again assure an even distribution of the solids within the cocoa butter, the liquid chocolate is then conched. Conching is a process that involves heating the chocolate mixture to about 90 degrees Celsius (194 degrees Fahrenheit) and stirring it for hours until it becomes a smooth, silky liquid with a moisture content of less than 1%. At the same time, some flavour compounds of the cocoa butter attach themselves to the sugar, giving rise to a more harmonious taste. Undesirable flavour compounds, on the other hand, are eliminated during conching. A Cool Finish As it comes out of the conch, the chocolate is too liquid to be further processed. The mixture is therefore seeded with fat crystals and slowly cooled down, following a very specific temperature curve, to about 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit). This process, called tempering, prevents the cocoa butter from crystallising at the surface of the chocolate and forming a thin, whitish layer. Though this layer does not affect the taste, it makes for a less appealing finish. If done correctly, tempering the chocolate should result in a shiny finish and a crisp snapping sound when the chocolate bar is broken into pieces.

Coupled with a little stubbornness, and lots of diligence. Max works daily to improve his speech and his manners. His goal is to become an important contributor to his family’s chocolate venture. And to reach that goal, no obstacle is too high, no burden too heavy. Because his love for chocolate is greater than any of the challenges he faces. In fact, there are few things Max loves more than chocolate. And for that reason, Max’ face lit up and he couldn’t stop smiling on the day of the opening, when he read the sign above the door: “Max Chocolatier,” it said in pretty letters. First Tastes Once the brand name was decided, the last few details were arranged. A Scandinavian design studio was tasked with drawing up the company’s graphic presentation. Meanwhile, a family member took charge of creating a fitting shop interior: Patrik König’s sister is an architect. Her elegant design, which uses granite from Vals and locally grown oak, provided a suitable environment for the finely crafted chocolates. By using robust local materials, she wanted to reflect the warmth, and the respect for nature and for tradition that are so important to this enterprise and its founders. And since natural mater­ials are full of secrets and surprises, they are a little bit like Max. And like Hilda. With her lively manner, she makes sure a warm welcome is extended to all who visit this realm of sweet temptations. Visitors who want to learn more about the ingredients, the production, or the reci­­ pes of the brand’s exclusive creations can open the many drawers in the boutique; they contain answers and many a sweet surprise – all in keeping with the motto of the Lady of this realm: “Always surprise the customer!” Those who linger to explore the boutique and its tempting contents a little more in depth may suddenly find that they are being offered a coffee – and thus linger even longer. On 27 September 2009, the time had come: after years of preparation, Max’ very own chocolate boutique opened its doors to the public at Schweizerhofquai 2 in Lucerne – on the birthday of Max’ grandfather. Whenever Max now visits his “chocolate factory”, it is not without pride. “He’s the boss,” the employees say and anyone new at the company is introduced to him personally. And when, with shining eyes, he reaches for a piece of his own choco­ late, it becomes obvious what – or who – inspired the brand promise: “experience chocolate for the first time.” For Max carefully opens the box, chooses a chocolate, turns and admires it, before smelling and, finally, tasting it with closed eyes. A content smile spreads over his face as a symphony of flavours seems to spellbind his whole body. Max enjoys every single bite as if he was experiencing the taste of chocolate for the first time. Taking Root A year later, the chocolate boutique had become a fixture for the locals. The elegant boxes with their delicious


Pictures: Lee Jakob

The moulds are filled, then closed with chocolate ganache. After 12 hours, the chocolates have cooled and the moulds can be tipped over. To create the “SchoggiPlättli”, chocolate couverture is flavoured, e.g. with coconut flakes, spread out and, as soon as it starts to harden, cut into little squares. As the silicone mat from underneath is pulled off at a 45 degree angle, it leaves an imprint of the brand logo in the chocolate.

The almonds are caramelised in a copper pot, then covered with chocolate in the so-called “tumbler”. In the final step, the dragées are transferred to a sieve and coated with cocoa powder. As long as the original packaging isn’t opened, the almond dragées keep for several months. The finishing touches on the chocolates include a brush of gold powder, lavender blossoms, or a few grains of fleur de sel.

Max & the Chocolate Factory

contents were sure to delight and enchant – whether as a birthday present for a good friend or as a sweet treat for a beloved spouse. Yet, the chocolate lovers at Max Chocolatier wanted to go further; they wanted to conquer all of Switzerland with their product. So Hilda Chédel quit her previous job and brought her passion and skill to the management of the young company. Lining up project after project, she is determined to lead the start-up to success through steady progress. One of her projects is the Chocodor. Realising that even business people like to take a break from studying their files, and indulge in a little sweet something, she consulted a cabinet­maker to create a sort of humidor for choc­olates. The stylish wooden desktop box makes sure that the chocolates inside are perfectly tempered and conserved. And with a weekly refill, the sweet treats are never in short supply. Time for Quality The product range, too, is constantly being improved and developed. Every few months, the boutique surprises customers with new, seasonal creations. For Trans­ helvetica, the König family organised a degustation and we were allowed to try the 2017 summer collection ahead of time. After 25 different flavours, our taste buds were hyped like a four-year old after a two-hour fireworks display. The Königs, however, just seemed to be warming up and asked their master chocolate maker for more samples. Perhaps they all fell into a big pot of chocolate when they were children, and have subsequently developed chocolate superpowers and preferences. Shortly before we were overwhelmed by all these flavours, however, we managed to jot down some of our favourites: the basil

calamondin chocolates, for example, or the ginger cherry ones. Luckily for us – and for our blood sugar levels – the little gems have a production time of about four days. On the first day, the filling is mixed, then left to cool and set. On the following day, the mixture is cut into little squares which, once again, are left to rest and set in their new shape. Immediately covering them with chocolate would lead to little cavities between the filling and the choco­ late coating which might then crack. When the little jelly squares finally do get their chocolate dressing, they once again need time to cool before they are ready for the final touches – be that a little chocolate flourish from the piping bag, a chocolate stamp or, for the most extravagant pieces, a brush of gold dust. On the fourth day of production, the little edible masterpieces are carefully put into elegant boxes – their “little home,” as Hilda calls it. Finally, a silk ribbon completes the packaging – which can be further adorned by the customer with little tags that carry various messages. Eternal Favourites At first, Hilda and Patrik planned on something unheard of in the chocolate industry: they wanted to switch the complete product range every season. However, Max objected and there are now at least two delicacies that are always available: the “Gugelhöpfli” cakes, made to an old, secret family recipe, and the “raspberry branchlis”, fruity truffles that look especially big with their elongated bar shape and have therefore found particular favour with Max. But it is not only Max who loves them. Should we ever realise our dream of owning a Chocodor, we too will be sure to always have them in stock. Thank you Max! ●

Chocolate: Facts & Figures 4,200,700 tons of cacao were harvested globally in 2014/2015. The biggest producers of cacao are the Ivory Coast and Ghana, followed by Indonesia and South America. Switzerland annually imports about 1 % of the global cacao harvest (in comparison, Germany imports approximately 10 %). The Swiss love their chocolate. The national per capita consumption is 11.7 kg per year (including sales to tourists and cross-border commuters).


White chocolate is, technically speaking, not chocolate because it contains no cocoa, but only cocoa butter and sugar. The fridge is not a good place to store your chocolate; instead, it is best kept at 16 degrees Celsius (about 60 degrees Fahrenheit). Processing takes place at about 29 – 31 degrees Celsius (84 – 88 degrees Fahrenheit). For best results and a glossy finish, chocolate products should be cooled slowly after processing. Many of the nutrients in chocolate, such as proteins, carbohydrates, but also trace elements, mineral nutrients, and vitamins, are essential for a balanced diet. Thus, chocolate is good for you!

Picture above: Lee Jakob / Picture below left: Sebastian Doerk / Picture below right: Samantha Scott

Treasure boxes: after four days, the chocolates have received their finishing touches.

Max’ favourites: the raspberry branchlis.

Pure pleasure: Max enjoys every bite of his chocolate.



Boutique Lucerne Schweizerhofquai 2 6004 Lucerne Switzerland

Sales +41 (0) 41 418 70 97

+41 (0) 41 418 70 90 Mon: 1 pm – 6.30 pm Tue – Fri: 10 am – 6.30 pm Sat: 10 am – 5 pm Boutique Zurich Schlüsselgasse 12 8001 Zurich Switzerland

Marketing & PR +41 (0) 41 418 70 98 Tastings & Makings +41 (0) 41 418 70 95

+41 (0) 44 251 03 33 Tue – Fri: 10.30 am – 7 pm Sat: 10 am – 5.30 pm Online Shop


Credits Text: Jon Bollmann, Design: Fabian Leuenberger, Editor: Nicole Naville, Translation: Claudia Walder, Translation editor: Amanda Blair, Printed by: Köpflipartners AG, Circulation: 1000, Paper: PlanoSpeed® (has been awarded the ecolabel EU Flower). This article first appeared in issue No. 33 of the Swiss travel magazine Transhelvetica. Transhelvetica is a product of Passaport AG.


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