Swiss Chocolatiers Embrace High Quality

GENEVA (AP) — Chocolate makers from around Switzerland gathered in Geneva over the weekend to show off their finest wares to consumers already spoiled for choice. The aim of Switzerland's top chocolatiers was to convince their countrymen — who each gobble a whopping 26.5 pounds (12 kilograms) of chocolate on average every year — to embrace quality over quantity.

GENEVA (AP) — Chocolate makers from around Switzerland gathered in Geneva over the weekend to show off their finest wares to consumers already spoiled for choice.

The aim of Switzerland's top chocolatiers was to convince their countrymen — who each gobble a whopping 26.5 pounds (12 kilograms) of chocolate on average every year — to embrace quality over quantity.

"You won't find Toblerone here," said Tibor Luka, a financial consultant who helped organize the country's first chocolate fair.

Judging by the queues of people lining up Sunday outside the venue — a converted hydropower station along the river Rhone — the Swiss were eager to get a taste of something different.

Roger von Rotz, a chocolatier from central Switzerland, brought along one of the rarest delicacies, a chocolate made from nacional cacao.

The variety, believed lost to disease in the early 20th century, was rediscovered in Peru several years ago and has been brought back thanks to dedicated chocolate lovers who savor its low-acidity.

The Beschle brothers, fourth-generation chocolate makers from the northern city of Basel, offered a prize-winning sea salt and pistachio creation, as well as a chocolate flavored with fruit from the South American acai palm.

"The Swiss don't yet understand chocolate enough," said Marc-Philippe Wisson as he offered chunks of Beschle bars to hungry visitors.

Like other exhibitors, he compared most people's knowledge of fine chocolate to that of wine a few decades ago, before consumers became connoisseurs and fine vintages became big business.

Peter Borsordi of the club "Mordus de Chocolat" — French for "bitten by chocolate," which roughly translates as "chocoholics" — said anybody can learn to distinguish cocoa quality and flavors with a little bit of practice.

Still, after five or six different varieties, even the best-trained palate can't tell the difference anymore, said Luka, the organizer. And gluttons won't be satisfied at the top end of the market anyway.

Leaving aside the price — a small bar of Von Rotz's Fortunato No. 4 and some pralines will set you back $33.50 — there simply isn't enough high-quality cacao in the world to go around, he said.

With visitor numbers at this year's "Salon du Chocolat" almost double what was expected, a second installment is already being planned. It will take place in Geneva Oct. 6-7, 2012.

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