Schwarzenbach in Zurich brings the best of the world’s chocolates under one roof. In Oberdorf, the charming cobbled hill in the old town, the fifth generation of the Schwarzenbach family has shaken the chocolate traditionalists’ palates in the 21st century cosmopolitan Zurich.
Celebrating diversity in the Swiss liberal metropolis
That the Swiss have a penchant for fine chocolate is old news. Yet being open beyond the milk in it and beyond the Linds, Teücherlis, Läderlachs to contemporary local newcomers as well as sensitively selected foreign bean-to-bar craft chocolates, shouts that change is abound in the cantonal federation. The liberal Zurich has transformed itself over the past decade from a stiff banking centre of Switzerland, to the most internationally diverse city in Europe. As of 2022, forty percent of its residents are not Swiss. And as the diversity colours its streets, the dining and cultural scenes got more interesting, so naturally even the most traditional of products, such as Swiss chocolate got a spruce up in a more diverse offering. Just a few years ago my Zürich trips were streamlined to breakfast and snack at Sprüngli, Swiss traditional lunch at Krönnehalle and some ok Asian dinner with cool atmosphere. Hold and below, as if sprung up from the bushes, the ‘Züri’ youth now creates a vibrant plethora of anything you would expect from a worldly city. Liberal and open.
Contemporary Swiss artisan chocolate
The new Swiss brands in the spotlight make their chocolates around Geneva or Zurich in scaled down production quantity, bean-to-bar, fair-trade, vegan, raw, name it.
La Flor is the Züri best it is said. Next to the bars but also the enrobed cocoa nibs, Piedmont hazelnuts and only in best years selected raw whole cocoa beans are extraordinary. I also like Garçoa not for their new age spiritualism on the cosmic packaging, but the content and the graphic shape of their thin bars that just feels perfect in the mouth. The Geneva-based, Orfēve signals your preferred bar by detailed, transparent description of the production of each pure chocolate bar ranging between 70 to 90 percent.
Yet, chocoholics rejoice, the offer is well beyond just Swiss-made!
European chocolate offering
The best of the world’s chocolates now unreservedly found support beyond the Swiss in Zurich. Britain’s best, made by a popular coastal bakery Pump Street chocolates, especially the bread crumbs in dark chocolate bar gets your jaw into shape through some serious crunches, wonderful! Akesson’s for their pure origins of “single plantation” terroir precision is another made-in-Britain star and so are the more widely distributed Original Beans.
Aside from Millésime, Belgian chocolatier sourcing from South America and Mexico (I love their nutty and spicy Criollo bean of Chantugo Cacao 80% bar from Chiapas), there are more Italian than from Belgium additions in the Schwarzenbach chocolate library. From Southern Tyrol, where Austria borders Italy arrived Karuna. Ideal for those liking some fun in their chocolates, adding organic dried sea buckthorn, casis, milk, raspberries, coffee, nuts. From the South comes organic certified Sabadí with the Modica production style, which is not as smooth as the subtly conched chocolates you may be more familiar with, but it has its fans. You should try.
Back to the cacao roots
More in the bygone times chocolate tradition, from Mexico comes Taza, round shaped more raw tasting chocolates. From South America, the Peruvian Qantu also made in Peru from its own elevated soil.
From Uganda, not just the beans but also manufactured in the country comes the Latitude range.
Unafraid: heritage meets contemporary tastes
H. Schwarzenbach is an iconic Zurich name known to the discerning locals for its finely selected worldwide gourmandise. In the tiny “colonial waren” as such worldly produce delivering stores used to be called, in-house roasted and freshly ground coffee, loose tea, spices, a wide selection of rice and beans, exotic fruit and nuts from dried persimmon to Thai dragon fruit and jackfruit chips are weighed into elegantly illustrated black and white paper bags upon order. The coffee is hermetically sealed to prevent moisture infiltration. Since 1928 the coffee roastery has operated its machinery to provide caffeine boost for the local discerning intellectuals. From bankers, lawyers to the Zurich university professorship, Schwarzenbach is still a point of indulgent quality reference.
Schwarzenbach, unlike Sprüngli (brought by the Swiss chocolate giant Lindt) is still a family owned business. Now in the hands of the fifth generation, the deliciousness offering is there most expansive it has ever been. Originally an egg seller from St Gallen, later in 1910 the family bought the old post office at Münstergasse in Zurich. Curiously, the line of inheritance was always male, but the current Heinrich V. has two daughters, so who knows where the H. Schwarzenbach goes next?
The shop on your right used to stock also some of the chocolates, but as the cocoa passion has possessed the family members, there was a need to open a properly dedicated store only to chocolate pleasure. So where now the chocolate and espresso bar is situated used to be the open coffee roastery (now sandwiched between the chocolate boutique and the gourmet store) with a cosy indoor café. While we miss the wooden tables with perfectly brewed cups of coffee, the walls lined with chocolates more than made up for the loss.
Each time I ventured in ever since the silent opening during the pandemic (in the early months of 2021), some new stock seduced me to a purchase. In all sizes, from tiniest squares, though half-bars, to packs of diverse flavours or single origin range of one brand such as the Vietnam-based Marou, but also melted in 65%cocoa Schwarzenbach hot chocolate (the grated dark chocolate bar can be bought for home making) next to the ultra serious sugar-free 100% cocoa powder by La Flor, either steamed with your choice of milk (Oatly barrista satisfies demanding vegans) or water. You can also have an espresso to go or to sit outside if the flimsy Swiss weather allows (when the sun shines though, the city revels!).
Asia has landed in Zurich
Most recent additions were quirky flavours from Singaporean Fossa. How has the chocolate game down over there changed since I spotted the weird durian-flavoured funky chocolate bars there a decade ago (Naive Durian 67% with Bolivian cocoa still on offer at Schwarzenbach next to their other unusual flavours such as Porcini mushrooms and milky sour Kefir). Peanuty, satay sauce flavour with milk chocolate, Chrysanthemum for the China chic, dairy-free oat milk with apple and cinnamon warmth, the radical Salted Egg cereal echoing the Singha breakfast (I did not dare but was told that it is more like a custard than thinking of chocolate omelette) and for the purists like myself 100% Tanzania Kokoa Kamila and 75% Malaysian dark collected by the island’s Semai community. I kept the best for the end, a gift with humour if you dare, the Duck Shit Dancong milk chocolate that is not containing any animal excrements but a fine oolong tea.
Not far, still in Asia, from the Philippine soil came Auro, with added local glazed pili nuts(high fat content similar to macadamias) by Theo & Philo artisan chocolatier, while Krakatoa explores the Indonesian islands mounty from Bali to Sulawesi. I can go on, but even beyond the online store, there are more chocolates sold at the store, so I encourage you to come in person.
My countless visits, with chocolate-infused chats with the lovely ladies led to buying more than I needed, (well I do need to match a broad chocolate library with my books studded study) but also to informative content for my chocolate-loving brain. It is the happy hormone needed for overcast and cold days that I seek for harmony, not the sugar. Schwarzenbach is now my drug store and a spa in one.
Open: Mon – Fri: 9am – 6:30pm; Sat 9am – 5pm