Portland Walking Tours

The Little Chocolate Shop with a Big Story

May 23rd, 2017

Switzerland, that minuscule country roughly the size of the state of New Hampshire, lays claim to the most chocoholics around. If you’re like us and feel a twinge of anxiety whenever your chocolate stash runs low, your immediate reaction might be to personally dispute that claim. Whether their adoration for chocolate runs deeper than ours is up for debate.  As far as numbers go, however, there’s no contest: the Swiss consume twice as much chocolate per capita as Americans. It makes sense, then, to turn to Switzerland’s chocolate manufacturers for clues as to why this ubiquitous delicacy has endured.

With so much Swiss chocolate available at grocery stores and pharmacies (think Lindt bars, Lindor truffles, and the ubiquitous Toblerone), there is something inherently special about stumbling into the downtown Portland outpost of legendary Teuscher Chocolates. Running counter to the typical business model of the modern world, the decades-old company has remained small. Even their shops are tiny! Recently, we sat down with Theresa Luthi, the owner of Teuscher Portland, and chatted chocolate at her Broadway Avenue store.

 

If any of the chocolate terminology terms are unfamiliar, then come join one of our Chocolate Decadence tours and perfect your chocolate knowledge while munching, drinking, and savoring.

Portland Walking Tours:
We understand that Teuscher is over 80 years old. How has the chocolate scene changed in that time?

Theresa Luthi:
It was way simpler back then, less refined in a way. There were just 3 categories: gianduja, pralines, and, of course, truffles. There weren’t so many different types. Salted caramel, for example, is popular these days and is the newest flavor for Teuscher.

Portland Walking Tours:
You are known all over the world for your champagne truffle. I have to admit I had never heard of it before coming into this store.

Theresa Luthi:
Mr. Teuscher created the recipe 60 years ago and it was an immediate hit. Nobody knew how he could blend the champagne with the ganache like he did. He wasn’t necessarily the first to do it but it’s been the best since then.

Portland Walking Tours:
Conde Nast Traveler magazine recently named Teuscher in their article on the best chocolate in the world. How is Teuscher chocolate different from, say, Lindt, or other mass Swiss chocolate distributors?

Theresa Luthi:
The ingredients. He’s selective about his cocoa beans (single origin). He still uses Dom Perignon in the champagne truffle. Instead of using preservatives, the chocolates are shipped weekly to the stores. Also, Mr. Teuscher doesn’t stretch cocoa out, or even separate it. If you stretch it out, it can be a cheaper chocolate, but it will taste cheaper. And we don’t advertise. The focus is always on the quality.

Portland Walking Tours:
Even after 80 years, Teuscher remains small with only 20 shops located across the globe. Was this a conscious decision?

Theresa Luthi:
It’s still a family business and the chocolate is all still made at the headquarters in Zurich. There is pride in that. If they open a store somewhere, it’s because someone who’s interested approaches them. That’s what I did 16 years ago. But I am retiring in June. I would like to find a buyer for the store but the company isn’t helping me to find someone because they don’t have the resources. Customers are still coming as much as ever so I am hopeful someone comes forward who is interested. It’s just time for me to retire.

Portland Walking Tours:
Have you been to the headquarters?

Theresa Luthi:
Yes. It’s actually more of a house than a factory.The ground floor is for shipping, another floor is for production, and another is for packing. On the second level is where they make the fantasy character boxes and the flower boxes that you see on the shelves. They are all handmade, and it’s been the same designer for the last 30 or 40 years. You’d think the factory would be very busy but it is quite calm inside, although I’m not sure about holiday time. There are talks of opening new stores in the Middle East, places that don’t celebrate the same holidays that are so popular in the West, which would help spread out the demand over the year.

Portland Walking Tours:
All bias aside, do you consider the Swiss chocolate makers to be authorities on chocolate?

Theresa Luthi:
You can’t make milk chocolate by just mixing milk and chocolate. You need milk powder. And it’s the Swiss who invented that. So I would say yes…along with the Belgians and the French.

Portland Walking Tours:
Will you miss it?

Theresa Luthi:
Yes. I will miss the contact with the people the most. If someone takes over, then I can visit – to help, of course, but also as a customer!

Need to get your chocolate fix sooner than later? Want to decide for yourself which Portland chocolatier is best? Click here to sign up for one of our Chocolate Decadence Tours today!


Article by Thyra Roth

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Connect with us

  • inserted before ?>