Earlier this month, the Lindt Home of Chocolate welcomed its first visitors in Kilchberg, Switzerland.
The largest of its kind in the world, the museum boasts 65,000 square feet of chocolate-centric content, including an interactive exhibition dedicated to the sweet treat’s history and production, a café, a Lindt chocolate shop, a research facility for chocolate innovation, a space for chocolate-making classes, and a fully viewable production line, reports Ellen Gutoskey for Mental Floss.
But it’s a colossal chocolate fountain located in the Home of Chocolate’s foyer that’s arguably the museum’s main attraction. Standing nearly 30 feet tall, the fountain features an oversize golden whisk that drips 1,500 liters of liquid cocoa into a giant Lindor truffle. According to Insider’s Rachel Hosie, chocolate flows through the sculpture’s 308 feet of hidden piping at a rate of 2.2 pounds per second.
Chocolate’s roots stretch back thousands of years. As Hayes Lavis, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, told Smithsonian magazine’s Josie Garthwaite in 2015, traces of chemicals found in clay vessels suggest the Olmec people of southern Mexico fermented, roasted and ground cacao beans for use in drinks and gruels as early as 1500 B.C.
Another Mesoamerican civilization, the Aztecs, enjoyed a chocolate drink that Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés described as bitter and spicy upon trying it in the early 1500s. When Cortés returned to Spain, he brought cocoa beans and the equipment used to make the beverage back with him. According to Lindt, the drink soon spread across European courts; eventually, confectioners began experimenting with chocolate’s flavor and form.
In 1819, the first mechanized chocolate production facility opened in Switzerland. A few decades later, a man named Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate by adding dried milk to the concoction during production. In 1879—three years after Peter partnered with M. Henri Nestlé to establish the Nestlé Company—Rodolphe Lindt invented the chocolate conche, a tool that continuously mixes chocolate ingredients for several days. (The process reduces acidity and bitterness, resulting in smoother chocolate.)
The Home of Chocolate not only tracks the history of chocolate in Switzerland but also informs visitors about the “seven chocolate worlds” that cocoa beans traverse before becoming sweets, reports Jessica Poitevien for Travel + Leisure. The exhibition begins by exploring how cocoa beans are farmed in Ghana and ends with the production line in the facility itself, per a statement.
Lindt’s interactive experience now joins a lineup of chocolate museums including the Museu de la Xocolata in Barcelona; the Belgian Chocolate Village in Brussels; and the Hershey Story in Pennsylvania. But it’s worth noting that Swiss take their chocolate especially seriously—and, as a result, are known for their high-quality products.
“Chocolate is a part of our national identity and the chocolate industry is an extremely important economic sector of our country,” said Swiss Federal Council Ueli Maurer in a speech at the Home of Chocolate’s grand opening, according to a statement. “For this reason, fostering local chocolate expertise is synonymous with boosting Switzerland as an economic location.”
The Home of Chocolate will support that expertise with a pilot research facility, which opened to expert chocolatiers at the beginning of 2020. Here, researchers can develop new chocolate recipes and pioneer small- and large-scale production techniques alike.
Novice chocolatiers, meanwhile, can perfect their craft by taking classes at the “Chocolateria.” Among other topics, courses cover how to make chocolate bars, lollipops, figurines, pralines and truffles.