Paris is becoming the world capital of chocolate! New chocolate shops pop up in every arrondissement… not only stores of resale, but also boutiques of chocolate makers who are competing for originality either in design or in quality … And this is excellent especially during this Christmas time!
For the “petite histoire”, hot chocolate was introduced in France by Anne of Austria, daughter of the Spanish king at the beginning of 17th century and chocolate became very “chic” at the French court in Versailles. The first “chocolatier du Roi” D. Chaillou opened his first shop in Paris 6th in 1659. This was the beginning of a new expansion of this “délice de luxe” mainly due to its reputation as an aphrodisiac, and many other chocolatiers competed then, mostly settled in the same area (6th and 7th).
After the French revolution, chocolate became more accessible but took off at the end of the 19th century with the development of some French chocolate factories: Poulain, Menier* thanks to attractive advertising from famous artists.
If you buy chocolates in France, you should know that we use a lot of vocabulary: we say “une plaque” or “une tablette de chocolat“, and that “une barre” or “un carré” (smaller) are small part of “plaque” or “tablette” you may “faire fondre” for a cooking use or “croquer” for a direct personal use. For artisanal chocolates, you have a lot of different kind of pieces: “ganaches”, “pralinés”, “palets”, “truffes”, “mendiants” …, which can be sold at different prices according to the quality and especially the celebrity of the chocolatier. French chocolate makers are certainly the most creative in the world and offer a wide range of choices, but be aware that real French chocolates aren’t very sweet!
But the fame of a chocolatier could also depend on his art in sculpturing and you can see by yourself some fabulous art realizations in his “vitrine” and one of them Patrick Roger was even recently named as “Le Rodin du Chocolat” for his latest masterpiece.
Through my Paris tours, I will recommend some of my favorite “chocolatiers”, depending of the “quartier” we are visiting, but some of them (see below) are exceptional… And as for the best Christmas chocolate, I would say a “mendiant” (a beggar) seems the best appropriate one. I cannot explain the origin of this word, but it is a wonderful combination of black or milk chocolate with dry fruits. And if you are looking for a typical French touch for your Christmas table, don’t miss to put some “papillotes” (golden wrapped chocolate with a firecracker inside) on it!
*Menier chocolaterie can be still visited in Noisiel (94) during “journées du patrimoine” at the end of September, as it is nowadays Nestlé Headquaters in France
My favorite chocolatiers :Jacques Genin – 133, rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris et 27 rue de Varennes, 75007 Paris Patrick Roger – 108, bd Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris Alain Ducasse – 40, rue de la Roquette, 75011 Paris Debauve et Gallais – 30 Rue des Saints-Pères, 75007 Paris La Maison du Chocolat – 225, rue du Fbg-Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris Herviou, 42 Rue de Montreuil, 94300 Vincennes