“All I really need is love but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt,” said Lucy van Pelt of Peanuts. To that I’d add, “A little Swiss chocolate please, especially chocolate coated almonds that caress the tongue.”

Is there really anything better than plain milk chocolate or truffles that melt in the mouth?. Not for me! And to my delight that is also where innovations are increasing.

As many in the world race to adapt to speedy new technologies, a little nook continues a leisurely stroll of the heart to add real quality to life in ways more delightful than Nano tech can ever do.

Despite struggling economies in Europe, the artisanal chocolate makers of Switzerland and France are flourishing and even multinationals like Nestle are moving to premium quality because that is most loved by consumers. Prices for artisanal chocolate are rising not because of the cost of cocoa beans but the innovation that goes into creating subtle flavors.

All chocolates are just cocoa beans, cocoa butter and milk but flavors are limitless. Industrially made chocolates strive for identical taste and consistency. They win friends through fancy promotion. Artisanal chocolates, sold at much higher prices, are works of the chef’s art and courage in exploring new frontiers.

France has artisans like Joséphine Vannier, Pierre Hermé , Patrice Chapon, Fabrice Gillote, Jean-Charles Rochoux , Michel Chaudun, Franck Fresson, Patrick Roger, Christian Constant, Pascal Caffet and Philippe Urraca. Chocolate making is such a big deal that there are only 40 maitres chocolatiers (master chocolate makers) certified by the French Academy of Chocolate Makers established in 1901. Probably the largest maker of artisanal chocolates is Valrhona.

For many Swiss, chocolate is sacred. They eat over 12kg of chocolates per person every year, far ahead of the US with about 5kg. Some say France has supplanted Switzerland as the undisputed queen of chocolate creation. I think nobody beats the Swiss. They also have history.

The magic of plain milk chocolate is credited to inventor Daniel Peter of Vevey, Switzerland, who joined hands with Henri Nestlè in 1879 to start the Nestlè company. That year was especially auspicious because Robert Lindt of Berne invented the smooth creamy flavor of fondant chocolate that vanishes into the tongue.

In Switzerland, di Pellegrini, Sprungli, Auer, Martel, Teuscher, Castello, Stettler, Rohr, Cartier, Micheli, Zogg and Favarger, among many others, continue the good stuff. Some of the best work is from Philippe Auer, a fifth generation chocolatier in Geneva.

Well, maybe I’m biased. Like the astute Star Trek woman said, “I never met a chocolate I didn’t like.”

Brij Khindaria, Foreign Affairs Columnist
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Copyright 2010 The Moderate Voice