Winter 2019/2020 Chocolate Tastings in Chester County

As 2019 is coming to a close, I’d like to thank you for being part of the 37 Chocolates journey. Thank you for attending a tasting, listening to a chocolate story, shopping at a pop-up, and referring me to prestigious venues. This year, you’ve also trusted me with birthday celebrations — how amazing is that?  You’ve helped make 2019 stellar and for that, I am grateful.

The holiday season is now in full swing and I know many of you could use a last minute gift idea. If so, I hope to see you this Saturday, December 14 from 1-5 PM at Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery in Kennett Square for a chocolate pop-up sale. This will be part of their annual Sip & Shop event and YES, I’m bringing the white chocolate with lemon & sea salt!

Grace Winery October 2019
Photo credit: Becca Mathias

December Tasting

Sunday, December 22, 2019, 5-7 PM Wine & Chocolate pairing at Grace Winery in Glen Mills, PA. Tickets are $42.63/person and include four pairings and one 1-oz bar to take home. There are only 8 spots left, so save your spot now.

Read Becca Mathias’ account of our previous tasting at Grace Winery in this blog post.

Grace Winery Line-Up
Photo credit: Becca Mathias

February Tastings

Friday, February 7, 2020, 6:30-8 PM: Wine & Chocolate pairing at Grace Winery in Glen Mills, PA. The event is SOLD OUT but you can add your name  the waitlist.

Sunday, February 16, 2020 at 2 PM – 4 PM: Wine & Chocolate pairing event at Harvest Ridge Winery’s tasting room in Toughkenamon, PA. Tickets are $30/person and must be ordered online prior to the event. Price includes four pairings.

Read Becca Mathias’ account of our previous tasting at Harvest Ridge Winery in this blog post.

Saturday, February 15, 2020 from 10-11 AM: FREE chocolate tasting and storytelling at the Kennett Library. We’ll be sampling three bars from two new French chocolate-makers. Spoiler: there’ll be chocolate with caramelized passion fruit. Sign-up information available in 2020.

Thursday, February 20, 2020, from 7-9 PM: wine & chocolate pairing at Bittersweet Kitchen in Media. Tickets are $40/person and are available here. Price includes 3 pairings + hors d’oeuvre. 

Friday, February 21, 2020, 6-8 PM (SOLD OUT): Wine & Chocolate Pairing at Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery in Kennett Square. Tickets are $35/person ($30 for wine club members). RSVP by phone at (484) 899-8013, by email at info@galerestate.com or stop by the tasting room.

Read Becca Mathias’ account of our previous tasting at Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery in this blog post.

March TastingS

Friday, March 13 from 6-8 PM: I’m thrilled to be hosting another wine & chocolate pairing event at Grace Winery. Tickets are $42.63/person and include four pairings plus one 1-oz bar to take home. Since our February 7 event sold out 6 (!) days in advance, I recommend you get your tickets now if you’re eager to join.

Sunday, March 29, from 3-4:30 PM: tea & chocolate Pairing at Brew HaHa! in Greenville, DE. Tickets are $20/person and include 4 pairings. Space is limited to 25 guests and 15 have already sold, so don’t wait to sign up

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5 Myths about Pairing Wine and Chocolate

Two years into my chocolate journey, I decided to learn the secrets to pairing wine with chocolate. Having no idea where to start, I brought my entire chocolate stash to Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery in Kennett Square one day, while the winemaker, Virginia Mitchell, poured all of the wine. After two hours of sipping, tasting, and dumping, we came up with very successful duos where the proverbial whole tasted better than the sum of its part.

Looking back on that afternoon, I realize our inexperience was a blessing in disguise. We approached pairings with an open mind, which made us consider unusual combinations, like a 100% dark chocolate with a dry red wine or milk chocolate with a white wine.

Since then, I’ve collaborated with sommeliers and winemakers, clubhouse managers and chefs to create successful, memorable wine and chocolate pairings. As I interacted with wine experts, I discovered their idea of matching wine with chocolate was sometimes regimented by a set of rules that didn’t seem to take the diversity of the chocolate world into consideration. For instance, some sommeliers are set on serving a sweet wine with chocolate. Others are convinced that white wine won’t go with chocolate. On the internet, I’ve shaken my head when a podcast host claimed “you can’t pair Champagne with chocolate!”.

The world of chocolate is vast and these rules are based on a limited exposure to fine chocolate. Granted, pairing wine and chocolate is tricky — a chocolate that goes well with a Merlot from a specific winery may not go with ALL the Merlots — so I understand the need to rely on some guidelines. After two years of leading my own wine & chocolate tastings, I’ve created my own set of rules which help me come up with the sweetest pairings. I’m sharing them here as I debunk five common myths on the topic.

Make sure to read until the very end for a special offer on my video training on how to pitch, design, and lead a chocolate lecture and wine & chocolate pairing event.

MYTH# 1: DRY RED WINES DON’T PAIR WITH DARK CHOCOLATE

This myth is widely spread in the wine industry, where experts claim the dark chocolate will clash with the tannins in red wine. Sure, a dark chocolate from the grocery store isn’t the best thing to nibble alongside a glass of red. However, I’ve had dozens of chance to debunk this myth.

The first step is to start with a dark chocolate with gently roasted, specialty grade cacao beans. Over-roasting will cause bitter compounds to develop (see this bean comparison post for an explicit visual), which will indeed clash with your red wine. OK, but where can one find these bars? Follow my rule and you’ll find out.

Rule #1: Skip the candy aisle and get some quality (and pricier) bars from a local coffee shop, specialty food store, or on a craft chocolate website like Bar & Cocoa or Caputo’s Market.

You can also email me at estelle(at)37chocolates.com for specific chocolate recommendations. I suggest starting with an approachable cacao origin like Madagascar. The cacao beans’ natural sweetness and berry notes make for crowd-pleasing, versatile bars. I’m partial to Fruition Chocolate Works’ Madagascar Sambirano 74% Dark Chocolate, which plays well against a medium-bodied Merlot. Give it a shot and tell me what you think.

MYTH #2: YOU SHOULD PAIR DARK CHOCOLATE WITH A SWEET WINE

Ask a wine expert to pick a bottle of wine to accompany a piece of dark chocolate and the odds are, they’ll choose a sweet wine. Depending on the budget, this could be a Madeira, Port, or Muscat. In France, the popular choice is Mas Amiel’s AOC Maury. Now, there’s nothing wrong about serving a dessert wine with chocolate — in fact, one of my favorite pairing is a 100% Madagascar dark chocolate with a Concord grape wine (!) — but you’ll be missing out on some delectable unions.

Rule #2: Not all dark chocolate is bitter, which means you don’t need to rely on the sweetness of a wine to balance its flavor out.

Go ahead, experiment and you’ll fall like me for Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery’s Cabernet Franc with Åkesson Organic’s 100% Madagascar Criollo or Acalli Chocolate’s 81% Barataria Blend.

Another trick is to keep a stash of chocolate bars made with a high percentage of white cacao beans. Cacao beans are typically purple, which indicates the presence of tannins. Using that logic, I theorized that chocolate made with white beans lacked tannins, so they could go well with dry red wines and guess what? It works! OK, but how do you spot bars made with white beans? Look for the world “blanco” or “Porcelana” on the wrapper. “Piura Blanco” or “Gran Blanco” are usually a good sign — I have a soft spot for Qantu Chocolat’s 70% Gran Blanco, which I consider the little black dress of my chocolate tastings.

MYTH #3: (RED) WINE AND CHOCOLATE ARE A NATURAL PAIRING

I stumble upon this myth on social media, usually from people who’re interested in one of my upcoming events. “Wine and chocolate, how can you go wrong?!” While I appreciate the sentiment, the reality is you can go wrong bringing wine and chocolate together.

For one, the bitterness of a industrial dark chocolate will clash with dry red wine. Thankfully, the bars I feature at my events are not bitter. In fact, some don’t even taste like typical chocolate at all. These bars won’t clash with red wine but a strong bodied wine will overpower them.

Here’s an example. I once ordered a glass of Grenache at a restaurant. The wine was dry, full-bodied, with strong berry notes — it was delicious. I thought the fruitiness would be a perfect match for the jammy, French Broad Chocolate 71% India bar I carried in my purse that night. While both shared a flavor profile, the wine was too loud and took over the conversation, so to speak.

Grenache + French Broad India
French Broad Chocolate’s 71% India Dark Chocolate and a glass of Grenache

This shouldn’t have been a surprise because of my third rule.

Rule #3: Red wine and chocolate aren’t a natural pairing, but if you look for a chocolate with a body similar to the wine’s, you may find some delightful matches.

As such, a better companion for the Grenache would have been a bold dark chocolate with an 80% cacao content — think Castronovo Chocolate’s 80% Arhuaco Village or Åkesson Organic’s 100% Madagascar Criollo.

MYTH #4: WHITE WINE DOESN’T PAIR WELL WITH CHOCOLATE

I don’t know what the foundation of this myth is, but follow my next rule and you’ll be a white-wine-and-chocolate convert.

Rule #4: Pick a barely tannic dark chocolate like Amano Chocolate’s 70% Dos Rios dark chocolate or Qantu Chocolat’s 70% Gran Blanco to pair with white wine. 

I love Dos Rios because of its unusual, delicate notes of bergamot and lavender, which play well against a floral white wine like a Spanish Albariño. As for Gran Blanco, it’s fantastic with Chardonnay. Other stronger, fruitier bars will work, too, and you’ll fall for the raisin notes of Wm. Chocolate’s 68% Belize Dark Chocolate with a crisp glass of Grüner Veltliner.

Alternatively, you could serve a crisp white wine with a rich, creamy dark chocolate. The wine helps cut through the richness of the chocolate, so you get a very balanced sensation in the mouth.

MYTH #5: CHAMPAGNE (OR SPARKLING WINE) DOESN’T PAIR WITH CHOCOLATE

First, a reminder that Champagne only refers to the sparkling wine originating from the region of Champagne in France! Cava isn’t Champagne and neither is Prosecco. With that settled, I know lots of people enamored with the idea of holding a glass of Champagne in one hand, and a piece of chocolate in the other. Add a sequin dress to the mix and you got a fantasy new year’s party.

Personally, I think Champagne is perfect on its own, so I don’t feel compelled to pair it with any food. If you reallllllly want to eat something with Champagne, consider making gougères, the light, airy puffs baked with Gruyère. That’s what the French would do.

But back to chocolate.

When the opportunity arose to experiment with Champagne last year, I jumped at it and had four empty flutes to show for it. Better yet, I discovered that bubbles and chocolate can be a match made in heaven.

Rule #5: Drink Champagne with white chocolate (YES IT IS REAL CHOCOLATE!!!) or a creamy dark milk chocolate.

The most memorable pairing that evening was a dry, slightly bitter Champagne with Violet Sky Chocolate’s Pine and Citrus bar. Oh, did that make my tongue sing! The irony is that the Champagne rep’ thought that bottle wouldn’t go with any chocolate. The magic there came from the bitter orange that bridged the Champagne’s bitterness with the intense dark chocolate. Swoon.

Another good partner to a glass of bubbly would be chocolate truffles — my friend Sophia Rea, founder of Projet Chocolat, is quite fond of Teuscher’s Champagne truffles.

So yes, you can pair Champagne (and other sparkling wines, for that matter) with chocolate — sequin dress optional.


I hope I’ve convinced you that wine and chocolate do go together. As a chocolate sommelier, I found wine & chocolate tastings to be a fantastic way to introduce fine, craft chocolate (call it bean-to-bar, if you prefer) to a larger audience.

If you’d like to learn how I pitch, design, and lead an engaging chocolate lecture AND wine & chocolate pairing event, sign up for the video training I created for chocolate industry professionals. Use code “cheers” for 15% off the list price. 

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What makes chocolate bitter?

Chocolate Envelopes
Chocolate blind tasting

At a recent chocolate lecture, I asked the crowd what each type of chocolate evoked to them. White chocolate? Not real chocolate (ahem.) Milk chocolate? Sweet. When I said “dark chocolate”, the answer was unanimous: bitter. I wasn’t really surprised. The first time I tried a 99% bar, I almost spit it up. Thankfully, the 37 Chocolates challenge made me realize that a good dark chocolate didn’t have to taste bitter. In fact, some beans make an excellent 100% dark chocolate bar, without a trace of bitterness. So, why are some dark chocolate bars bitter? To answer that question, we need to look at the ingredients in chocolate.

To make chocolate, you need cacao or cocoa beans (it’s really the same thing.) Genetics, fermentation, and roasting will all impact chocolate flavor. Cacao is an agricultural product and not all beans are created equal. Just like a Granny Smith apple is more acidic than a Gala, some cacao beans are more bitter than others. Fermentation is a complicated topic, but it’s easy to imagine the results of bad fermentation (mold.)

Now, let’s take a look at roasting. I had long heard rumors of big companies over-roasting their beans, but I’d never seen evidence of that. All of this changed last summer when I got my hands on a roasted cacao bean husk* from a very large chocolate company. I won’t tell you which one, but I bet you can guess.

Overroasted Cacao

On my left, a roasted cacao bean husk from that large chocolate company. On my right, a cocoa bean from Sierra Nevada in Colombia roasted by much smaller, award-winning chocolate company. The bean on the left was over-roasted, to the point of being burnt. What does burnt food taste like?

Bitter.

However, dark chocolate doesn’t have to taste bitter. The combination of quality cacao beans, careful fermentation, and gentle roasting can create beautiful, intense, but not bitter dark chocolate. Granted, those bars won’t cost the same as industrial chocolate, but which color cacao bean would you rather put in your body? So head to your local coffee shop or specialty food store and start browsing the chocolate section. Your taste buds will thank you.

* The husk is the outside part of a cacao bean, one that is removed and discarded during the chocolate-making process (the fancy name is “winnowed.”) Inside the husk is the cacao nib, which will ground into chocolate. 

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Fall 2019 Chester County Chocolate Tastings

Chocolate Wine Harvest Ridge
Photo: Becca Mathias Photography.

On her podcast two years ago, my friend Lauren Heineck asked what cacao meant for me. “A source of wonder,” I replied. It’s amazing that a seed can reveal nutty, floral, or fruity notes, depending on its variety, don’t you think? That’s the sense of wonder I strive to spark at my chocolate tastings, so when I hear: “Oh wow I didn’t know chocolate could taste like this”, I know I’ve succeeded.

But chocolate is more than a yummy food. It’s what I pull from my purse to bring comfort to a friend. It’s the topic I bring up when my Lyft driver says he’s from Ghana. It’s what gathers people at my table. When I was in Colombia last June, I met a lot of people who looked nothing like me. Often times, we didn’t even speak the same language. Everyday, though, we sat at the same table. Everyday, we communicated through pictures Google Translate. All because of chocolate.

That feeling of connection is what you’ll experience at this fall’s tastings. You’ll experience wonder through the smoothest and creamiest texture, and from the stories I’ve been lucky to receive for the past four years. I hope to share them with you at one of these Philadelphia area events.

Thursday, October 3, 7-8:30 PM – Chocolate Lecture + Tasting, Clean Slate Goods, Kennett Square, PA

What? A 90-minute chocolate tasting around the theme “Every Chocolate has a Story.” Come hear about Robin, Yesid, Duvis, and Denise during this 90-minute event featuring three chocolate bars featuring beans from plantations I’ve visited. You’ll leave the event hopeful and uplifted.

The event is for you if: recent headlines on cacao farmers left you depressed and you’re ready to hear uplifting stories about ethically-sourced cacao.

Where? At Clean Slate Goods, a fair trade boutique in downtown Kennett Square.

How do I sign up? Tickets are $15, you can purchase them here.

Sunday, October 6, 2-4 PM – Wine & Chocolate Pairing at Harvest Ridge Winery Tasting Room, Toughkenamon, P

Chocolate Wine Harvest Castronovo Akesson
Photo: Becca Mathias Photography.

What? A 2-hour tasting featuring four wine & chocolate pairings. Spoiler: there’ll be peanut butter chocolate. You’ll learn chocolate-tasting basics, nibble on cocoa beans, and discover the secret behind successful pairings (spoiler: it involves a lot of tasting).

The event is for you if: your BFF is in town and you’d like to treat her to a memorable afternoon. Here’s what our February tasting was like.

How do I sign up? Tickets are $30/person and must be purchased online.

Friday, October 18, 6:30-8 PM – Wine & Chocolate Pairing Event, Grace Winery, Glen Mills, PA (SOLD OUT)

What? A wine & chocolate pairing event at Grace Winery, a dreamy venue located off Route 1. The setting is so peaceful, with alpacas and donkeys on the property. Book a room at the historical inn if you can!

The event is for you if: you already signed up for the event because the event is SOLD OUT!

How do I sign up? You can add your name to the waitlist or sign up to the 37 Chocolates newsletter so you never miss another event.

Saturday, October 26, 10-11 AM – Colombian Chocolate Tasting at the Kennett Library

Denise + Pedro
Denise Castronovo of Castronovo Chocolate introduces her dark milk chocolate to Don Pedro Diego Bolivar, one of the farmers behind her award-winning Sierra Nevada 63% dark milk chocolate. Photo credit: Vincent Ferreira of Hasnaa Chocolats.

 

What? A one-hour workshop where you’ll hear about my recent Colombian trip (spoiler #1: I’ll talk about XXL spiders) and eat three chocolates featuring cacao beans from plantations I visited. Spoiler #2: expect to get emotional.

The event is for you if: it’s never too early for chocolate.

How do I sign up? Registration is required on this Google Form.

Good to know: This is the only FREE tasting I’ll hold this fall. The library’s hosting a kids storytime at the same time downstairs.

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On Motherhood and Chocolate

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A cute hand and the cult Pump Street Chocolate Sourdough & Sea Salt chocolate

As we near the fourth anniversary of the 37 Chocolates challenge, I find myself reflecting on my chocolate journey. From its early days, that journey has been intertwined with my role as a mother. After my second daughter was born, I returned to the corporate job that I’d had for years. I lasted 14 months. I was unhappy, I didn’t belong there anymore. I wish I could say it was easy to leave. It wasn’t. I agonized for months over I’d do next. I was scared of the unknown so I bought myself time. We changed my job title. I looked for other jobs. During that time, I kept looking at my baby. I felt so guilty be such a sorry version of a grown up. What was the point of bringing this baby into the world if my choices conveyed there was nothing more to aspire in life than pay bills and wallow in self-pity? I had to do better — for her and for me.

Ultimately, my body called it quits. I left the job, released the first version of my food survival for French expats in the US, and spent the rest of the summer shooting chocolate reviews with an iPhone laid on an upside down box of diapers. I won’t say “the rest is history” but it was the beginning of a new life.

Chocolate isn’t “just” chocolate for me. It’s a vehicle to find meaning in life and show my children how you can craft your own path and create a life you’re proud of. Sharing bars with my kids is one of my life’s joy. It’s a reminder of the life choices I made to be a better role model. A happy parent. A better adult. May they see it. May they remember it.

 

Grid Magazine Cover Story + Upcoming Event

Cacao Selfie

As you may have gathered from the @37chocolates Instagram account, I spent a glorious week in Colombia, visiting cacao plantations and fermentation facilities. The trip was organized by cacao broker Uncommon Cacao in collaboration with Cacao Hunters and I’m grateful for Denise Castronovo of Castronovo Chocolate for letting me know about it. A highlight of the trip was witnessing her giving her creamy 63% Sierra Nevada Dark Milk Chocolate to Don Pedro, one of the Sierra Nevada farmers (there may have been some tears…)

There’s so much more I’d like to share on the journey, so watch for future blog posts and (hopefully) magazine articles. If you know of an editor interested in my experience, please send them my way! Until then, I’ll continue to feel grateful to have found a field that keeps me endlessly interested.

Grid Magazine Cover Story

Grid Cover Story

If the recent Washington Post story on child labor in cacao fields left you depressed, read my (first) cover story in the June issue of Grid Magazine.

An affiliate faculty of African studies, Dr. Kristy Leissle offers a definition of sustainability in cacao and exposes the roots of poverty on farms. The piece also highlights the work of three Philadelphia area chocolate companies, i.e. Nathan Miller Chocolate, Repurposed Pod, and La Chocolatera’s drinking chocolate food truck, as well as Uncommon Cacao. These four companies strive to bring positive changes in the industry and I hope their stories will leave you inspired.

You can read the Grid Magazine story here.

Upcoming Event

Unionville Saddle

Join me this coming Saturday from 11-2 at WorKS in Kennett Square as part of Unionville Saddle’s Father’s Day pop-up shop. There’ll be shirts, bourbon, and chocolate — does life get any better? I’ll be there with several bars, including Castronovo Chocolate’s Sierra Nevada Dark Milk Chocolate and the best-selling Lemon Sea Salt White Chocolate. I hope to see you then!

WorKS
432 S. Walnut Street
Kennett Square, PA 19348

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The 37 Chocolates Guide to Paris Chocolate Shops

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Sign for almond milk hot chocolate in front of Rrraw in Paris

In 2017, I wrote about Three Paris Chocolate Shops You Must Visit on Bar & Cocoa’s blog. Since then, many of you have used the article to plan your bean-to-bar adventures, which is amazing! But two years later, it’s time for an update.

The chocolate scene has indeed changed a lot in a very short amount of time. Once a small shop in Montmartre, Kosak has now launched their distribution company, making bean-to-bar chocolate more accessible than ever. Department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps have stepped up their chocolate game, making their gourmet departments definitely worth a visit. Plus, I discovered new bean-to-bar shops.

This new “37 Chocolates Guide to Paris” should come in handy if you plan on spending a vacation there soon. Feel free to email it to a friend, share it on Facebook or Pinterest… Anything to spread the word on good chocolate! 

Keep in mind this post isn’t a comprehensive list of ALL chocolate shops in Paris. Instead, it’s a timely, sometimes quirky, chocolate-centric list of places where I’ve personally shopped at. You’ll notice some classics are missing — À la Mère de Famille and A l’Etoile d’Or  — because I’ve not been there (yet) and, besides, I like to do things differently. I hope you find the list useful and remember to report back with YOUR chocolate finds in Paris. Bon voyage !

Tip: I use the Mapstr app to save addresses on my phone. You can set up the app so your phone vibrate if you’re close to any of your saved locations.

Ara Chocolat

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Owner Andres Zakhour with a vegan chocolate popsicle

Located near Gare du Nord, Ara Chocolat is an off-the-beaten path gem that will delight bean-to-bar chocolate enthusiasts. In their shoe-size shop, owners Andres and Sabrina Zakhour turn ethically traded cocoa beans into bars, bonbons, and popsicles. Depending on the weather, you’ll find hot chocolate or frozen treats to enjoy by the window, as well as bars and bonbons to bring to your hotel room. All their chocolate goods boast complex, bold flavors, but it’s the bonbons that stood out to me. Without dairy to mute their flavor, their fillings taste strong and bold. One year after trying them, I still remember how the praline and citrus versions felt on my tongue.

Good to know: all of Ara Chocolat’s products are vegan, a rare feat for a Parisian chocolate shop.

Ara Chocolat
54 Rue de Dunkerque
75009 Paris
Open from noon – 7 PM, closed on Tuesdays and Sundays

Phone +33 7 85 14 92 57/ +33 6 70 09 87 75

Des Gâteaux et du Pain

Four words: best croissants in Paris.

croissants
Des Gâteaux et du Pain’s super buttery croissants

Des Gâteaux et du Pain
63, boulevard Pasteur
75015 Paris – France

Jacques Genin

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Jacques Genin’s pâtes de fruits and chocolate bonbons

When I think of chocolate shops in Paris, chocolatier Jacques Genin’s always comes to mind. His chocolate bonbons are fantastic, both delicate and flavorful (don’t miss the mint ones!) but what makes their shop on Rue de Turenne a must-visit is the attention to a million of details.

First, the space: large, airy, and calm, with fresh flower arrangement and the coolest spiral staircase to look at. Next, the food: chocolates, yes, but also barely sweetened pâtes de fruits (fruit pastes) in a myriad flavors (red pepper, anyone?), and, my favorite, the Paris-Brest. Genin’s take on the classic French pastry is surprisingly light, with an intense just-roasted-hazelnut flavor. It’s hands-down the most delicious Paris-Brest I’ve had to date.

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Jacques Genin’s Paris-Brest

For the best experience, come with close friends or family and order tea from the thoughtfully sourced menu. When so many places would skimp on the quality of the beverage “because it’s a chocolate place,” Genin offers perfectly brewed tea sourced from the finest plantations. The tea is served with an array of complementary chocolates and pâtes de fruits, just because. Two years ago, I remember leaving my table well fed and cared for. Isn’t that what we all want?

Jacques Genin
133 rue de Turenne
75003 Paris

Métro : République, Filles du Calvaire, Temple
Open Tuesday – Sunday, 11 AM – 7 PM (7:30 PM on Saturdays)

Kosak

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An ice cream parlor/bean-to-bar shop, Kosak offers the largest selection of bean-to-bar chocolate in Paris. When I discovered Kosak on Instagram, I quickly fell for its famed chocolate wall. When I started chatting with their friendly owners, Nathalie and Catherine, I realized we shared a similar vision of chocolate. We talk about bars in the similar terms: they don’t bat an eye when I say Svenska Kakaobolaget’s bars taste punk rock because they feel that way, too. That’s why they commissioned me to write all the product descriptions on their website and distribution catalog.

In a city that many perceive as a large scale museum, Kosak holds proof that chocolate doesn’t have to be this precious thing served with white gloves and a whisper, but a fun, flavor-filled food. At Kosak, chocolate can be crunchy like a piece of Ajala Rustic bar, sophisticated like a bite of Solkiki Chocolatemaker’s salted caramel coconut bar, and bold like Hogarth Chocolate’s Gianduia.

In 2018, Kosak launched a distribution company, making their international selection of bean-to-bar available outside of their Montmartre shop. You’ll find a Kosak display at the ground floor of Lafayette Gourmet (see below,) as well as at Galeries Lafayette’s new Champs-Elysées location.

Tip: have lunch at Soul Kitchen up the street, then head down for a chat, chocolate samples, and a bag full of memories. Oh and don’t remember to take a selfie by the wall!

Kosak
106 rue Caulaincourt
75018 Paris

Métro : Lamarck-Caulaincourt

Tel: +(33) 9 80 73 35 60
Open from 11 AM – 8 PM, closed on Mondays.

Lafayette Gourmet

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Chocolate bonbons by La Manufacture par Alain Ducasse at Lafayette Gourmet

In an ideal world, every tourist would spend at least two weeks in Paris, enough to visit all of the museums and eat all of the food. In real life, some of us can only devote a few hours, if that, to chocolate shopping. So, what’s a time-strapped chocolate enthusiast to to?  Head straight to Lafayette Gourmet.

Located behind the legendary Opéra, this food hall gathers creations from some of the city’s most renowned pastry chefs and chocolatiers.

On the first floor, you’ll find creations by chocolatiers Pierre Marcolini and Jean-Paul Hévin. Bean-to-bar aficionados will head straight to Alain Ducasse’s corner to shop for single origin bars (recommended: Mexico.) All chocolate products were available for sampling, so feel free to ask for a small bite to help you select the right bars and bonbons. The chocolate-covered candied citrus were delicious. Before you leave the floor, make sure to stop by Sadaharu Aoki’s booth for Japanese-inspired creations.

Next, take the escalator to the ground flour and browse through Bonnat’s bars and Kosak’s second chocolate wall. Selection may include bars by Ajala (Czech Republic,) Chocolate Tree (Scotland,) Hogarth Chocolate (New Zealand,) and Svenska Kakaobolaget (Sweden.)

Good to know: the bathroom on the top floor is free and very clean.

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Praline-filled bars by La Manufacture par Alain Ducasse at Lafayette Gourmet

Lafayette Gourmet
35 boulevard Haussmann
75009 Paris

Métro : Opéra

Open Monday to Saturday from 8:30 AM until 9:30 PM. Closed on Sundays.

La Récolte

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Chocolat Madagascar at La Récolte

On the Well Tempered podcast, Karine Guillemette once shared that Chocolat Madagascar’s 100% chocolate would be a bar she’d bring to the cosmos. When I heard that, I knew I had to try it. Sadly, the bar is almost impossible to find in the US, although you can get it on Bar & Cocoa’s website.

Thankfully, the universe had my back: on my way to Pralus last year, a small, fresh convenience shop called La Récolte caught my eye, so I went in. The teeny tiny shop only carried one brand of chocolate — you guessed it — Chocolat Madagascar. I was obviously thrilled to find the 100% bar, which I tried it within an hour.

So what does it taste like? Well, the keto and Paleo-friendly bar boasts a lovely acidity, a slight fruity sweetness, but zero bitterness. It’s super addictive and I can see it being my new go-to afternoon pick-me-up. Grab it at either one of La Récolte’s locations in Paris.

La Récolte Batignolles
18 boulevard des Batignolles
75017 Paris

La Récolte Beaubourg
43 rue Beaubourg
75003 Paris

Monoprix

Monoprix? Yes, people, Monoprix. For those who don’t know, Monoprix is a large chain of grocery stores (with cult-like following, I may add) and I urge you to explore at least one of them during your trip because that’s where real Parisians actually shop!

If you’re a chocolate-loving tourist, browse the chocolate selection for a quick reality check. No, French people don’t eat chocolates from Jacques Genin on a daily basis, they buy mass-produced chocolate like everyone else. Grab some bars before checking out the (stylish! affordable!) clothes selection.

Monoprix 
Multiple locations across Paris

Pierre Hermé

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Who needs fashion boutiques when you have Pierre Hermé? OK, I exaggerate a bit, but please, don’t leave Paris without a stop at Pierre Hermé’s flagship store. Known as “the Picasso of Pastry”, Pierre Hermé dusted off the world of French pastry with his semi-annual collections and beautiful macarons with inventive fillings, such as passion fruit milk chocolate.

While he reached cult status with his Ispahan, a delicate pastry blending litchi, rose, and raspberry, Hermé is a wizard when it comes to chocolate. He’s the author of a dessert chocolate cookbook and, in 2017, he developed a macaron-based dessert filled with Belize single origin chocolate from the Xibun estate. The pastry was surprisingly bright and I loved the contrast with the candied almonds.

Simply put, a stop at Pierre Hermé’s store will refill your creative tank.

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Pierre Hermé Paris
72 rue de Bonaparte
75006 Paris

Open Sunday to Friday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM and Saturday from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

Pralus

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The Pralus shop on rue de Rambuteau

Granted, Pralus doesn’t make chocolate in Paris, but their stores are so beautiful and welcoming that I suggest pushing their doors. At the Rambuteau location, you’ll find the company’s entire single origin range (hmmm, Trinidad) next to the famous pink-praline-filled brioche, which you can sample for free.

After making bean-to-bar chocolate before bean-to-bar was a thing, Pralus has continued to innovate and stay relevant to the contemporary chocolate scene. Case in point: the Carré de Café bar, a square bar made where cocoa butter acts as a vehicle for Arabica coffee. There are two versions of this bar, milk and dark, both of which will deliver your caffeine fix in the sweetest way.

If your budget and suitcase space are limited, grab a Barre Infernale (bar from hell), a thick chocolate bar filled with a sweet, high quality filling like nougat or orange. My favorite? Pistachio.

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The whole range of Pralus Barre Infernale bars

Although there are three Pralus shops in Paris, I recommend visiting the one on rue Rambuteau because of its more convenient hours. Plus, it’s located near Centre Pompidou, which you don’t want to miss.

Pralus
35 rue Rambuteau
75004 Paris
Tél.: +33 (0)1 57 40 84 55

Métro Rambuteau

Opening hours: 10 AM – 8 PM Monday to Saturday, 10 AM- 7 PM on Sundays.

Printemps du Goût

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I said it before and I’ll say it again — Chocolat Encuentro was the best chocolate surprise of 2018. So, when co-founder Antoine told me to stop by Printemps du Goût, one of their retailers, I knew I could trust his taste!

Located on the 7th floor of Printemps Homme department store, the newly renovated specialty food store is a gem with an entire aisle devoted to chocolate, all with an unbeatable view of the Eiffel Tower. You’ll find bars by Chapon, Michel Cluizel, Chocolat Encuentro of course, as well as some lesser known brands.

What I respect and appreciate the most is that every single product featured in the shop was selected as part of a blind tasting. As the flyer indicated, “good thing for some, too bad for others.”

Good to know: Printemps du Goût isn’t located far from Lafayette Gourmet, so you could visit them both the same day.

Tip: consider ordering a coffee from Cafe Lomi and sip your espresso while taking in the view.

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Printemps du Goût
107 Rue de Provence
75009 Paris
Closed on Sundays

Rrraw

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Rrraw’s hot chocolate in Paris

A bean-to-bar workshop with storefront located in the heart of Paris, Rrraw makes chocolate products using only unroasted Peruvian beans. The brightly-lit shop carries a nice range of products, from cocoa beans and bars, to bonbons and hot chocolate.

While no bar really wowed me (I’m not a fan of chocolate made from unroasted beans, the aftertaste can sometimes be… odd), I really liked the licorice one. And if I liked the cube-shaped bonbons, it’s the hot chocolate I loved.

Made with almond milk and served with an assortment of chocolate goodies, it was rich, chocolatey, not too sweet, and without any of that weird, artificial almond aftertaste. It was also very easy to digest. The warm sun didn’t deter me from sipping my cup behind the glass window, watching people go by at the bustling intersection. The drink was soothing and the shop felt like a haven as I was preparing for my very first Parisian chocolate tasting with Kosak. To me, the drink is reason alone to discover Rrraw.

Tip: if you do go, consider having lunch at the nearby MÛRE first. All the cool Parisians gather at this veggie-centric, organic cafeteria and you want to be part of them, too. Merci to my friend Eliane for recommending it to me.

Rrraw Cacao Factory
8 rue de Mulhouse
75002 Paris France
Tel: +33 7 83 78 21 38

Open Monday – Friday, 11:30 AM – 7:30 PM. Closed on Sundays.

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