In 1806, master confectioner Johann Georg Niederegger established Café Niederegger in the heart of Lübeck — today it is located across from the entrance to the Lübecker Rathaus (town hall). The company is now run by the seventh generation of the same family. Café Niederegger is claimed by the family to be the unofficial hallmark of the Hanseatic city, such is the world renown of their marzipan confections.
Marzipan was invented far from Germany, where almonds and sugar are grown. Rhazes, a Persian doctor who lived from 850 to 923 A.D., wrote a book in which he praised the curative qualities of almond and sugar paste. When the crusaders returned from the Orient, they brought with them a host of spices and Oriental secrets. In 13th century Venice, Naples and Sicily, spices and confectionery were generally traded in tiny boxes. The enchanting word “Mataban” (box) gradually came to be used for the contents of the box: Mazapane (Italian), Massepain (French.), Marzipan (German). In the 13th century, the renowned philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas reflected upon the indulgence of eating Marzipan. In his doctrinal teaching, he reassures inquiring and anxious clerics: “Marzipan does not break the fast.” In his stories, the great novelist Boccaccio clearly describes the correlation between passion and marzipan. In those days, marzipan was topped with gold leaf to crown the sweet temptation. — source: Café Niederegger
Great Hanseatic merchant boats brought spices and other prized ingredients to the North. Initially, however, only apothecaries were allowed to trade with sugar and spices. Not until confectionary became a trade in its own right were so-called ‘canditors’ allowed to produce marzipan. The first Europeans to indulge in marzipan were kings and rich people. It has been reported that Queen Elizabeth I of England, who lived from 1533 to 1603, was addicted to all things sweet. The saying ‘regal enjoyment’ was coined. Later, at the French ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV’s sumptuous feasts, huge tables laden with marzipan were the order of the day. Marzipan reproductions of all sorts of fruits, poultry and game were created – anything you desired could be made. In the first half of the 19th century, the general population were now able to sample the almond delicacy to their heart’s content in coffee houses. Now that sugar could be extracted from sugar beet, the costly luxury became slightly more affordable. Marzipan was also particularly popular and prized in Lübeck. Master confectioner Johann Georg Niederegger established Café Niederegger in the heart of Lübeck in 1806. Café Niederegger’s reputation grew thanks to excellent quality. Their recipe for marzipan – as many almonds as possible, as little sugar as necessary – is secret, and has been passed on from generation to generation since the founder’s death. Thus, Niederegger Marzipan remains what it has always been: a delicious speciality made from the very best almonds. — source: Café Niederegger
After a guided tour of the museum, we had the opportunity to eat homemade marzipan cake with coffee/tea in the Café Niederegger. We had lots of time for shopping for delectables for the ship and some presents to bring home to the family in the U.S. A small group of us then attended a marzipan modeling class to learn the basics of how the various hand-crafted designs are created (see the sailing ship photograph above, for example!); the photographs from our class are at the end of this blog post… Of course, the bulk items are all created in moulds (see the photograph of the historical wooden mould, earlier in this blog post).