Tradition & Innovation at Favarger Chocolate
With a few hours free in Geneva and chocolate on my mind (as always), I figured it was about time I paid a visit to the Favarger shop on the Quai des Bergues in the city center. They’ve been making chocolate since 1826 after all.
The story began with Swiss chocolate maker, Jacques Foulquier, his portrait proudly on display in the shop (below, bottom right). He established a reputation for his handmade chocolate and a business he would then pass on to his son-in-law. When his daughter married watchmaker Jean-Samuel Favarger in 1854, the company got its name and has been producing chocolate at the factory in Versoix since 1875. Before that, it was on the Rhône, using hydraulic energy to power the factory. One of the oldest brands of Swiss chocolate still in production today (along with Cailler since 1819), Favarger has been roasting their own beans since day one, and remains Geneva’s most famous chocolate manufacturer.
I have a soft spot for all things vintage. The shop manager, Camille Leroy, had to have noticed how I was admiring the assorted chocolate objects and especially the impressive books lining the shelves. You can imagine my smile when he started pulling out one hefty volume after another, carefully turning the pages and admiring with me the gorgeous script handwriting. Logs of the Favarger business since the early 19th century were all saved, each and every one of them. Below (top right) you’ll see one journal from 1905, with business notes and correspondences, written on the thinnest of silk paper. Below that (bottom left) is one of the accounting books from 1912-13, where on each day meticulous notes were kept: the name of the customer, what town they were from, how much they spent and then a total for the day. For example, on October 20, 1912, Orphelinat de Souvaine from Thonon-les-Bains spent CHF 24 !! Of the CHF 815.90 they made that day. Incredible.
Not only are Favarger’s written records still around today, and in impressively good shape no less, but so are the recipes. Favarger is unquestionably most famous for the Aveline, a small rectangular chocolate wrapped in the company’s signature red paper. Hazelnut gianduja and roasted Valencia almonds in milk chocolate make for a subtle contrast in textures. The original Aveline has not changed since it was first created in 1922, but other varieties have since been added. Below are the five chocolates that are at the heart of Favarger, specialties of the house that are simply a must.
The milk chocolate Aveline later became available in dark chocolate and in a praliné variety as well. Also popular today is the Nougaline (introduced in 1932), most likely for its brilliant contrast in textures: a crisp nougatine shell filled with a milk chocolate and hazelnut gianduja and walnuts, the whole thing dipped in smooth milk chocolate. The original Nougaline in its round shiny red wrapper with gold writing (below, top left) was just recently given a new spin using a hazelnut and almond praliné, without walnuts, and wrapped in blue with silver writing. In the shop for just 2-3 months now, it’s the latest of the Favarger creations.
Another recipe that has passed the test of time is the hazelnut spread. Look for “à l’ancienne” on the label of this tempting and “gourmande” spread, to experience the authentic granular texture. Hazelnuts and almonds are first cooked with sugar in copper marmites and then ground using an 80 year old apparatus made of marble (that doesn’t grind as finely). There’s also a smooth variety for those who prefer, using more modern equipment. While respecting tradition and knowing what not to change, there’s also room for innovation and creativity. The original Avelines are now also made in bar form and new individual chocolates are added regularly. The yuzu praline, for example, was just introduced before the summer (below, bottom left).
I couldn’t be happier to finally have visited Favarger’s shop in Geneva – bright, airy and attractive with its smart red design. But I still hope to make it to Versoix and see the chocolate production. And take a photo in front of their famous red Chevrolet truck, still in use for deliveries today as it was for seven generations of the Favarger family.
Chocolats et Cacaos Favarger
Quai des Bergues 19
Chemin de la Chocolaterie 2