When I spent a 24-hour layover in Zurich earlier this year, it wasn’t tea that was top of my to-do list. But I told my foodie friend Kathy YL Chan about my trip, and the tea specialist and writer pointed me firmly in the direction of H Schwarzenbach, a gourmet emporium in the city’s picturesque Niederdorf quarter known for stocking every imaginable variety of loose-leaf tea.
Under the guidance of the store’s owner Heinrich Schwarzenbach – the fifth generation to run this over-100-year-old family establishment – I sniffed and sampled a fragrant Ceylon (SFr9, about £7, for 100g), a Uruguayan yerba mate (about £13 for 1kg) and a Fujian jasmine tea (about £8 for 50g), but it was a bright rooibos (about £5 for 100g) that I ended up leaving with, and that has found a place in my daily routine alongside my morning green and afternoon oolong.
The shop also stocks an equally vast selection of intensely flavourful coffee beans (roasted in-house), aromatic spices, chocolate and dried fruit from all over the world. Schwarzenbach took me through cases of Chilean walnuts (about £4 for 100g) and exquisitely packaged honey (about £16) from Neufchâtel before introducing me to a chocolate selection that is anything but predictably Swiss – there are bars and nibs from Brazil, Bali, Madagascar and beyond, as well as tempting chunks of German marzipan, candied ginger and Provençal Chabert & Guillot nougat (about £5).
And just next door is Schwarzenbach’s TeeCafé, where I digested all my new-found foodie knowledge with a cup of chamomile and a traditional straumann hüppen – a crispy wafer roll with a delicious gianduja filling.