Earlier this year, just as we were becoming aware of the coronavirus, I visited the first Läderach location on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan and wrote an article about that visit, What the Heck is a FrischSchoggi™?
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, in the midst of the pandemic and as NYC, like many cities around the country, is entering a new wave of COVID-19 restrictions, Läderach opened this new location – the 100th store globally – at 537 5th Ave, between 44th and 45th St, not far from Grand Central, Bryant Park, and Rockefeller Center.
I was invited to visit the morning of the opening day and have a chance to speak with the third-generation brothers Läderach – CEO Johannes and Chief Chocolatier Elias – who were in town in for the occasion of the opening.
This location, as does the one on Lexington at 59th, showcases the company’s signature FrischSchoggi in the front window. Here, as customers walk in they are met with an animated chocolate sculpture of a cocoa pod that was crafted by Elias, who was named World Chocolate Master in 2018. (I was in Paris during the Salon du Chocolat in 2018 so I saw him compete but we did not meet then.) As Elias and I were discussing the sculpture I mentioned that I had worked on the World Pastry Team Championships and was familiar with chocolate showpiece construction. He told me he was on the Swiss team that took third place in the 2008 World Championships. (The Japanese team placing a surprising second with a very strong Team USA taking first place as expected.) The world of chocolate is, indeed, a small one. I have no doubt whatsoever that our paths crossed many times at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville back in the summer of 2008, but while I have distinct memories of other parts of that trip, I do not remember meeting the members of the Swiss team.
All of the products on offer in the New York stores are made in Switzerland and are the same recipes across all Läderach locations worldwide. Apparently, the American preference for FrischSchoggi flavors matches the favorites worldwide, and in the same order:
- Milk chocolate with hazelnuts
- Dark chocolate with almonds
- White chocolate with freeze-dried blackberry and raspberry
One – new to Läderach – product that is somewhat of a surprise hit is chocolate-covered popcorn, which is apparently not a thing in Switzerland. The popcorn (which I have to admit is very more-ish) has proven to be quite popular among younger customers. Right now, given the season, boxes can be purchased adorned with Santa hats for gifting, and there are smaller sizes appropriate for stuffing stockings or squirreling away for when the mood strikes. Or just because.
The space is attractive, bright, and remarkably spacious. In addition to the retail component, which includes a circular counter for more traditional pralines (which you can see in the image that tops the story) and shelves along the walls, at the back are an atelier/workshop (left in the photos below but to the right in the store) and a classroom/event space which are not yet complete and are slated to open in the Spring.
The local production capability afforded by the atelier/workshop will make it possible for customers to order customized products and there are also plans to make products unique to the American market and tastes. There will be a chocolatier on staff overseeing production; the chocolatier is currently being trained at HQ in Switzerland.
The event space/classroom is slated to hold not only “how to” classes but will also host tasting and pairing classes. I had the chance to have a quick (masks-off but socially distanced) tasting of their new trio box of single-origin squares with Elias. (You can see the open box on the table in the classroom photo above.)
When I tried their single-origin tasting boxes last February and earlier in the summer during a virtual tasting I found it difficult to differentiate the origins from one another – there was a sameness to them all, as if all the edges were softened and rounded off. They were all quite well made but they were not all that distinctive. That is no longer the case.
In addition to recipe reformulations (the 80% Trinidad is the highest percentage the company has ever offered) and new packaging, the trio box adopts some new language to describe the contents. Rather than extended tasting notes, they use single-word descriptors: Flavorsome, Balanced, and Fruity. These perfectly describe the three origins.
The Trinidad 80% has an extremely attractive aroma of chocolate with no detectable bitterness or over-roasted notes. An 80% has a naturally higher cocoa butter content and so the bite, chew, and melt reflect that. The chocolate does not eat like an 80%, which is an indication of healthy trees, good harvest and post-harvest practices, and deft roasting. It has a richly chocolate flavor that will stand up in a lot of spirits and wine pairings and is downright tasty on its own.
Those who know cocoa from Brazil know the distinctive flavor profile that is commonly found in chocolate from that origin. That flavor is not present here. As the tasting note says, the overall impression is Balance. Not too sweet, not bitter as all, good bite and melt, pleasing chocolate taste. The beans come from the state of Para from Cooperativa Cabruca and are also used by another favorite Swiss chocolate maker of mine, Felchlin.
Chocolate made with cocoa from Madagascar is famed for its fruity profile and this one does not disappoint. What is nice here is the fruitiness is distinct but not overwhelming and lacks any hint of acetic acidity. Citric acidity, which is to be expected, is there supporting the fruitiness without detracting from it and the level of sweetness is a good counterpoint to the fruit.
- Läderach joins Euro-stalwarts Godiva, Leonidas, Lindt, Neuhaus, and Teuscher as well as UK newcomer Hotel Chocolat in the general vicinity of Grand Central. This new flagship location is a strong new addition to the midtown/east NY chocolate scene – and will be even more so when the atelier and classroom open.
- If you are looking for something chocolate for colleagues, family, or friends this holiday season (or even for self gifting because it’s 2020 and we all could use something tasty to close out the year on) or you are looking for options that are not the same-old same-old that will appeal to chocolate fans of all flavors and ages, Läderach should definitely be on your nice list.