Maison Cailler

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Maison Cailler 

After having breakfast in our hostel in Lausanne we headed towards the Cailler chocolate factory in Broc. There we received a tour of the Branches bars process line and learned more about how the firm Cailler was created, the history of chocolate and the technological aspects of its production. Later during the day we drove towards our next destination, the Nestlé Product Technology Center in Singen.

Cailler is the oldest Swiss chocolate brand. The firm was established in 1819 by François-Louis Cailler who after a trip of his in Italy discovered a novel mixture of ground cocoa beans and sugar: chocolate. Cailler thought that he could manufacture chocolate of better quality at a more affordable price and for this he opened a small factory in Corsier near Vevey. Since then the firm has expanded substantially; it now employs 340 people and has an annual production of 16 to 18 million kg of chocolate of which up to 60% is exported. Cailler has its basis in Broc ever since 1898 where it produces a wide variety of chocolate products that contribute to the good reputation of Swiss chocolate. Amongst these the most well known are: Ambassador, Fémina, Branches, Frigor and Rayon.  

It all starts with cocoa beans, the seeds of the cocoa plant Theobroma cacao, whose very name means “food of gods”. The Mayas used cocoa seeds both as a currency and for a drink which they called xocolatl and Hernando Cortes, conqueror of the Aztec empire was the first to saw their potential. He brought the first beans to Europe in 1528 and is responsible for introducing the exotic drink to the Spanish court. However, it was not until 1615 that drinking chocolate took off, when the Spanish princess Anne of Austria brought the drink to France. The turning point in the history of chocolate came in 1828 when a Dutchman called Coenraad Johannes van Houten patented a new hydraulic press to improve the quality of drinking chocolate. This press left him with a lot of cocoa butter which was considered to be a by product of cocoa powder production until about 20 years later an Englishman named Joseph  Fry mixed it back into the cocoa paste creating the first solid chocolate.

The tropical cacao tree produces large pods, each containing 20-40 beans. The all-important "cocoa butter" accounts for about 50% of the bean. Immediately after harvesting the beans are removed from the pods and left to ferment for a few days - a process which removes some of their natural bitterness. They are then dried in the sun and after this they are normally exported for further processing.

Processing involves crushing the beans and removing the husks, and then roasting them. The next stage is grinding: this liquefies the cocoa butter in the beans and produces a thick paste, also known as "chocolate liquor". Some of the paste is kept back and the rest is pressed to remove more of the cocoa butter. (This is where van Houten's invention comes in). The manufacturer now has three ingredients for further processing:
    I) Cocoa paste (containing some cocoa butter)
    II) Cocoa butter
    III) Cocoa cake (what is left of the paste after most of the butter has been pressed out). This is ground and sifted to make cocoa powder

Both plain and milk chocolate are made by mixing cocoa paste, cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla (or vanilla extract). Powdered milk is added for milk chocolate while white chocolate has no cocoa solids.

These ingredients are mixed and kneaded, to produce a paste, which is then rolled. This is following by conching, the continuous stirring of the paste, which liquefies the chocolate and gives it its final aroma and smooth texture. The final product can be made by pouring, pressing, coating or moulding the liquid chocolate.
(Elissavet Gkogka)