It’s a windy day in Boston, but all is calm inside the Teuscher chocolate shop as owner Stefan Bieri organizes a display of sweets. The store on Newbury Street is filled with brightly hued decorations of springtime flowers and miniature bunnies wearing bows, all shipped in directly from Switzerland. As a customer enters the shop, Bieri hears the words he is all too familiar with:
“I’ll have a box of Champagne Truffles, please.”
It’s the brand’s most famous chocolate, and it’s been rocking tastebuds since 1932 when a man named Dolf Teuscher created it in his home in the Swiss Alps. Forty years later, the Champagne Truffle found its way from the mountainsides of Switzerland to the United States – and eventually, in 1996, right here to Newbury Street.
The New York Times has called Teuscher “the world’s finest” chocolate. National Geographic rated it 2012’s ”#1 Best Chocolatier in the World.” Bon Appétit Magazine has called their products “the most meltingly marvelous of all chocolate creations.” Then there’s the feature of Teuscher’s Champagne Truffle on the Oprah Winfrey Show, where she declared it as one of her favorites.
So why set up shop in Boston?
Stefan Bieri, who was orginally born in Bern, Switzerland, attributes it to Newbury Street’s international flare and “Boston’s sophisticated taste for the finer things.”
Bieri has been running the Newbury store for 13 years. For him, the Teuscher chocolate shop represents more than just yummy treats; it is a proud monument of Swiss culture.
“Chocolate represents one of the best things about my country,” says Bieri.
The shop draws in customers that are a balance between Boston locals and foreign visitors. The appeal for locals is mostly word-of-mouth hype about the Champagne Truffle. As for the international crowd – especially Europeans – the attraction lies in the composition of the chocolate. According to Bieri, the difference in taste is noticeable to European chocoholics when compared to mass-produced chocolates made in the US containing dyes and preservatives. Teuscher’s treats have no preservatives, no waxes, and no other chemical additives, he said.
A customer named Kyle, who currently lives in Jamaica Plain, has family in Lucerne, Switzerland. He says that with their fresh ingredients, Teuscher’s has “the best chocolate in Boston” in his opinion. For him, the rich flavors pay homage to his family.
Kyle chooses the aforementioned Champagne Truffle as his treat of choice. The truffle is composed of a blend of fresh cream, butter, and chocolate with a champagne cream center that is dusted with confectioner’s sugar. It is available in milk or dark, and accounts for approximately 60 percent of their sales.
How much money are customers willing to drop on one piece of chocolate?
“Teuscher’s isn’t cheap. But I can rationalize spending four bucks on a single chocolate because they are just so damn good,” he Kyle.
The prices are steep as far as sweets go. This certainly isn’t your typical pack of 99 cent M&Ms; A 24-piece Teuscher chocolate box can cost you $90, and a single chocolate bar can come in at $14. You better really want to impress your Valentine sweetheart, because if you seek a velvet heart-shaped box with 43 pieces, it’s going to cost you $175.
While Teuscher chocolates may not be for the budget foodie, some are willing to trade the extra cash for quality.
“You won’t find many like this in the US. I love Teuscher’s because they are all about the chocolate experience,” Kyle says.
The hefty price tag can also be attributed to the ingredients that go into the creation of the treats. Teuscher’s opts to spend extra on cocoa butter rather than cutting back costs by using hydrogenated oils and dairy fats. According to Bieri, the chocolates are infused with flavors from around the world, including jasmine tea from Asia, ginger from the South Pacific, pistachios from Turkey, and hazelnuts from Italy.
Many of the chocolates are handmade the same exact way they were in Switzerland 80 years ago. In fact, the goods are flown in to Boston via a direct flight from Zurich. As one could imagine, this means very careful packaging.
I question if competitor chocolatiers try to mimic their Champagne Truffle. Bieri shakes his head.
“It cannot be copied or duplicated,” he says. “We are the original.”
Teuscher Chocolates Boston
Location: 230 Newbury Street, Boston MA 02116
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 am – 7 pm, Sunday 12 pm – 5pm