Last October, I travelled to France for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. It had been three years since I last slept in my childhood bed, woke up to warm croissants, and shopped at Carrefour with my parents. It felt so good to be back.
Of course, I took advantage of my hometown’s proximity to Paris for a pilgrimage at Kosak and check out new chocolate shops. The timing of my trip also coincided with the Salon du Chocolat, where I appreciated the dynamism of the French bean-to-bar scene and met promising new makers. Here’s the round-up of my favorite finds.
This post is the second part of The 37 Chocolates Guide to Paris Chocolate Shops and is in no way exhaustive. The places here will appeal to craft chocolate lovers who gravitate towards high percentage dark chocolate bars and not-too-sweet confections. Save this post for your next trip to Paris and enjoy!
Founded in 1948, Michel Cluizel has been making chocolate from the cacao bean before bean-to-bar was a thing. A few blocks away from the Louvre, you’ll find Cluizel’s range of seven single estate bars, as well as jars of award-winning praliné spreads, and elegant bonbons. All their products are made with pure cane sugar, whole vanilla beans, and absolutely no lecithin.
The family-owned company stands out by its continuous dedication to innovate, whether that’s releasing a line of 100% organic chocolate bonbons in 2020, or redesigning their packaging and increasing the cacao content of all their dark chocolate bars in 2021 as part of an ambitious rebrand.
While you can’t go wrong with any Cluizel products, the organic bonbons are the true knockout. Once the box is open, you can show the same restraint as a real Parisienne because you’ll be satisfied with one bite. If you eat as many bonbons as I do, you know how rare that is.
Good to know: All Cluizel products are made in the company’s factory in Normandy and, if your schedule allows, consider booking a factory tour.
After leaving the Cluizel shop, head to the beautiful Jardin du Palais Royal to rest and relax. Heads up: the entrance is tiny and you may circle it a few times before finding it. Sit on a bench, then dig through your chocolate stash on a bench amidst the rose bushes (so romantic!), but leave room for the most delicious hot chocolate at L’Instant Cacao right outside the Jardin.
Entering L’Instant Cacao’s shoebox-size store will require you to play human Tetris, but the experience inside will all be worth it. Behind the glass wall, you’ll first spot founder Marc Chinchole turning transparently traded cacao beans into chocolate. On the left, you’ll find his work packaged in minimalist wrappers.
Chocolate aficionados will recognize respected cacao origins, like Maya Mountain in Belize, Lachuà in Guatemala, or Kokoa Kamili in Tanzania. You’ll be intrigued by fun inclusions like kumquat and guajillo chili or the white chocolate with sheep milk and Madras curry.
If you need help choosing the right bars for you, Agnès (who happens to be Marc’s mom) will be delighted to assist you. I was charmed with the mellow notes of the 78% Emmoni Bolivia bar (2020 harvest.) If Agnès isn’t busy, she’ll share the improbable story of how the shop secured the beans (spoiler: it involves yellow jacket protesters.)
Don’t leave without a five-pece box of (huge!) craft chocolate rochers and, my favorite, the drinking chocolate. The drink checks the boxes of what a perfect hot chocolate should be — balanced and nourishing, rich but not heavy, intense but not bitter.
Agnès explained to me it took some experimenting to nail the recipe, which is apparently made with both chocolate and cocoa powder. What I know for sure is I drank every drop and that I gave it the unofficial award of best hot chocolate in the universe.
3, rue des Petits Champs
Open Tuesday – Saturday, from 10 AM to 2 PM and 3 PM to 7 PM.
When Plaq opened its doors back in 2020, it was dubbed “the Dandelion Chocolate of Paris.” Like the San Francisco company, Plaq attracts a new generation of chocolate-lovers with its sleek branding, two-ingredient dark chocolate, and a whole array of baked goods featuring house-made chocolate served in a café setting.
If your budget is tight, stock up on the single origin and milk chocolate bars which start at €8 per bar. If your boss gave you a raise, congrats! You can now splurge one of the praliné-filled and pistachio-covered Plaqs. I’m quite fond of the not-too-sweet, super tender almond chocolate cake, which is great with a shot of milk-based hot chocolate and a side of people-watching.
4 Rue du Nil
Open Tuesday-Friday from 11 AM – 7:30 PM; Saturday: 10 AM – 7:30 PM; Sunday: 10 AM – 6 PM. Closed on Mondays.
La Brigaderie de Paris
A Brazil native, founder Marina Stroh-Ibri has been sharing the flavors of her homeland in France since 2012. First known for her brigadeiros aka Brazilian truffles, Marina started developing a line of bean-to-bar chocolate back in 2018 using Brazilian cacao from Amazonia, Bahia, and Espirito Santo.
Admittedly, you’ll have to venture to the banlieues (suburbs) for a taste of La Brigaderie chocolate, but trust me, the savory inclusions of the Feijoada and Moqueca bars are worth the train ride. Both inspired by eponymous Brazilian dishes, the bars blend masterfully crafted dark chocolate with black beans, puffed rice, and orange (Feijoada) and tomato, pepper, coconut, and coriander (Moqueca.) These stellar flavor combinations are some of the most audacious I’ve had in France. If you really can’t make it to Montfort-l’Amaury, order her bars online and have them shipped to your Parisian address.
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