If Switzerland is the land of cheese and chocolates, we wasted no time diving in to the heart of the country.
Our first full day of the tour has taken us from Bern, the capital city and our home base in Switzerland, to Gruyere, a small village area in the French-speaking part of the country. A medieval village built in the mountains, Gruyere is still a picturesque home to about 1,000 people, who live behind the original city wall.
But Gruyere is known not for its scenery, but for its exports – this is one of the chief dairy production areas of Switzerland, and is famous for its namesake cheese. Gruyere cheese, noted for its mild flavor and smooth texture, can be found in fine food stores and restaurants across the world.
Today’s tour took us to a cheese factory, where we learned about the production of the area’s specialty from beginning to end. Along the way, we saw milk being skimmed, cultured and processed into cheese, and took a peek inside the “cave” where cheesemakers leave their wheels to sit for up to a year before selling them. Upon leaving, each member of the group received three different gruyere samples, which demonstrated how the cheese’s flavor changes with age.
We also got our share of chocolate, too. Just outside of Gruyere, the town of Bloc is home to Cailler, one of Switzerland’s historic chocolatiers. On a tour of the factory, we learned about some of the raw ingredients used in making chocolate, and saw examples of both antique and modern machines used in the factory.
The best part of the tour, though, came at the end, when we were invited to unlimited samples of all of Cailler’s products. Though it was just after lunch, we all noshed on chocolate squares, pralines and other candies until our stomachs’ content.