Why Bean-to-Bar Matters + Black History Month Virtual Chocolate Tasting

When people ask me what bean-to-bar chocolate is, I explain that the term refers to both a manufacturing process and a movement.

Understanding the process is easy – you take cacao beans and turn them into chocolate.

Illustration by Chocolate Noise x Ecole Chocolat

Explaining the movement requires some background. The majority of cacao beans is traded on the commodity market. This means than a cacao bean from a farm in Ivory Coast is no different than, say, a bean from Ghana. It doesn’t matter where that cacao comes from or who grew it. This is what commoditization does — it makes goods and people interchangeable.

The bean-to-bar movement puts traceability and thus humans back in the cacao chain. It means using cacao from that farm or that origin matters. The people who grew, harvested, fermented, and dried it, matter too.

Illustration by Chocolate Noise x Ecole Chocolat

Connecting you to the people and stories behind chocolate has been at the core of my work since 2016. Now I hope you’ll join me on Sunday, February 12, for a virtual tasting in honor of Black History Month.

During this 2-hour event, we’ll learn how Ghana became the 2nd largest producer of cacao, then will shed the light on the farming communities of Tumaco, Colombia, and Mababu, Tanzania.

You can attend the discussion part from anywhere the world for $15 + Eventbrite fees.

The general admission ticket includes chocolate the 3 (vegan) dark chocolate bars pictured above, You’ll try a 73% dark chocolate from Ghanian, sister-owned company 57 Chocolate – if you’re a chocolate nerd, you know this bar is almost impossible to get in the US! It has delicious pudding & coconut notes that you’ll love.

Our guest for this event will be Benjamin Setor Gbadago, a writer, research assistant, and founder of the website. He’ll be sharing his personal experience on Ghanian cacao farms and is eager to learn about YOUR perception of African cacao. I’m very excited about this event.

Sign up to the 37 Chocolates newsletter to be notified of blog updates and upcoming online chocolate tastings. For corporate and private tastings, please fill out this form and I’ll get back to you within 48 hours.

5 Tips to Make the Most of the Northwest Chocolate Festival

The Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle is the largest festival devoted to chocolate in the US. Every year in November, the festival welcomes over 100 exhibitors and thousands of chocolate-lovers from all over the world over one cacao-filled weekend.

Living in Pennsylvania, I’d never thought I’d ever attend the festival, simply because crossing the country for a chocolate show seemed like an indulgence. This all changed in 2016 when I saw a gazillion photos of the festival on Instagram: everyone who is someone in chocolate seemed to have gathered at the event. As a chocolate sommelier, I so wanted to be with them. So, the following fall, I made the decision to go to Seattle for the “Superbowl of Chocolate,” as Mackenzie Rivers of Map Chocolate calls it.

The event was so much fun. I met my favorite makers, ran into my friends from Ucayali Farms in Peru, and ate a lot of chocolate. However, nothing could have prepared me for how large and crowded the event would be. Sure, I had a great time, but I left Seattle knowing I had only scratched the surface of the festival. The good news is that I have learned some valuable lessons that I’m pleased to share with you today. I hope they’ll help you make the most of your own trip to the Pacific Northwest.

With Megan Giller (right), author of Bean-to-Bar Chocolate

Tip #1: Plan Ahead

If you’re a chocoholic like me, you’ll want to start planning your trip several months before the festival. My expenses for this trip were minimal, mostly because I started planning for it 9 months earlier in February. That’s when I signed up for a credit card which rewarded me 30,000 miles as a welcome bonus (the round-trip flight to Seattle for 40,000 miles.) As for lodging, I stayed at a friend’s house. Admittedly, not everyone has friends in Seattle, but you can save on accommodations by sharing a hotel room with another festival attendee or by renting an Airbnb.

There is a fee to enter the festival – the daily adult pass starts at $30 – but you can get early bird rates in the summer. Sign up to the festival’s newsletter to be notified of special offers.

With over 100 exhibitors attending the festival each year, you’ll have a fantastic opportunity to replenish your chocolate closet stash. I recommend budgeting for the event several months ahead, even setting a bit of money aside each month so you can indulge during the festival.

Tip #2: Come Early. Really Early.

Boy, did I learn this lesson the hard way. The festival officially started at 11 AM on both days and my friend Séverine and I thought we’d be at the venue by then. I had already planned on attending Chloé Doutre-Roussel’s session on “Chocolate Tasting for Professionals.” When we started hitting traffic a couple of miles of the entrance, I figured I’d be 10 minutes late. At noon, I gave up any hope of hearing the results of the “Survey of North American Fine Craft Chocolate-Makers Research Needs and Research Teams.” At 12:30, I left my friend in her car and ran toward Pier 91, where the festival was held.

At that point, I knew I’d have to attend the show with one single focus: in my case, people. Industry conferences and festivals offer incredible opportunities to connect with fellow chocophiles and makers and I was excited to finally meet Mackenzie Rivers of Map Chocolate, and Hans from Hans Westerink of Violet Sky Chocolate.

While I made the best of my time at the show, I’m disappointed that the line to the parking lot was so long I had to miss speakers. First world problem, I know, but when I read the attendees’ feedback on Shawn Askinosie’s talk on finding work with purpose – the audience was apparently in tears – I was bummed that none of the talks were live-streamed or recorded. Next time, I’ll do what hardcore chocoholics did and get a morning entry pass to hit the vendor stands at 9:00 AM. Members of the chocolate industry should consider getting a professional ticket which allows access to both Friday’s Unconference and the festival.

T-shirts at a chocolate booth

Tip #3: Bring Cash

Hogarth Chocolate in New Zealand is of my favorite chocolate-makers — I could eat their Bread & Butter bar in one sitting and buy their Gianduia by the case. I was thrilled to find a new-to-me Rose & Tea bar and starting stocking up for future tastings at the local library — how special would the audience feel! I had gathered $70 worth of bars when I found out the maker only accepted cash. Wait, what? I withheld a tear and put the bars on the table, settling on two bars instead.

What I discovered that day is that only makers with US bank accounts were able to accept credit cards. That meant I only bought one camel milk chocolate from Dubai and zero from Austrian company Zotter. Lesson learned: next time, I will slip more than a couple of $20 bills in my wallet so I can stock up on foreign bars — chestnut praline, anyone?

Hogarth Chocolate bars in 2017, before their makeover

Tip #4: Pack a Lunch

The Northwest Chocolate Festival was held on a pier, which means there aren’t dining options in walking distance from the show. Sure, there were food trucks by the entrance, but 4 food trucks aren’t nearly enough to feed thousands of hungry festival-goers. Personally, I’d rather spend my time talking to makers upstairs than standing in line for fish and chips, so I recommend packing a light lunch like a salad or sandwich to eat between tastings.

Tip #5: Stay Late

Although the festival closes at 5 PM, many exhibitors stay well after then to dismantle their booths and simply catch their breath. With the pressure off, I was able to have some nice chats with several chocolate friends, like chocolate educator Barbie Van Horn and Lauren Heineck from the Conversations in Cocoa newsletter. Sure, everybody was tired, but it was neat to have some quiet, quality time with good friends.

With Mackenzie Rivers (left), founder of Map Chocolate and The Next Batch school

Looking back, I did have a good time at the festival. Sure, I would have loved attending some talks, meeting all of my chocolate friends – sorry I missed you, Victoria – but I headed back home with a suitcase full of chocolate, a phone loaded with memories, and the conviction that I belong in this world.

Did you like this article? Sign up to the 37 Chocolates newsletter to be notified of blog updates and upcoming online chocolate tastings. For corporate and private tastings, please fill out this form and I’ll get back to you within 48 hours.

October 2022 Zoom Tasting: a Brazilian Maker in France and Her Vegan Chocolate

Well, hello there.

It’s been a long and hot summer here in Pennsylvania and I admit to welcoming the first cooler days with a sigh of relief. Bye bye, ice packs! See you next year, insulated materials! Shipping chocolate in fall and winter is so much more fun and easier, that I’ve already scheduled 2 ticketed chocolate tastings this fall.

But First, a Word About September’s Tasting

Last month’s tasting featured 2 chocolate bars by Cacao de Origen in Venezuela. Back in May, I managed to secure 12 Cacao de Origen bars and 8 single tree (!) chocolate bars, both featuring true Porcelana cacao. If you’re a cacao nerd or have signed up for the 37 Chocolates newsletter, you probably now that Porcelana is the stuff of legend. We had two guests as part of the event: cacao expert Chloé Doutre-Roussel and chocolate educator Shobitha Ramadasan, who respectively joined from France and Ireland.

The reason you’ve not read about the tasting on the blog, is that I had so few available bars, that I saved it for attendees of previous events & newsletter subscribers. If you’re not on the 37 Chocolates mailing list, now’s a good time to change that. You’ll then be the first to hear about tastings that made attendee chocolatier Kristin Joslin rave. Here’s what she said about our time together.

“Estelle, I loved this tasting so much. Chloe is such an incredible guest. Her book was a revelation to me and this first one I bought! I really do love this bar and I will definitely follow the school!… More people need to participate in these events so they can appreciate what it takes to make chocolate. My favorite tasting yet!

October 2022 Tasting

** The event is now past, but you can order the tasting bundle on the 37 Chocolates e-shop.**

The next ticketed event will be held on Sunday, October 23, at 2 PM ET and is open to everyone in the US*.You’ll be trying 4 bars from La Brigaderie de Paris, 2 of which won a Silver medal at the Academy of Chocolate Awards. Founder Marina Stroh-Ibri and Amazon expert Ricardo Lomaski will be our guests for the tasting. Tickets are $100 per screen and are for sale until October 17.

Here’s the story behind the bars.

Earlier this year, I told you about meeting Marina at Salon du Chocolat in Paris. I’d brought two of her signature bars back home: the award-winning Feijoada as well as the Moqueca, both of which are inspired by eponymous Brazilian dishes.

La Brigaderie de Paris Feijoada bar

I shared the bars with my neighbors last December, who immediately oohed at the beautiful, shiny bars. When we bit into the Feijoada, we fell in love with the contrast of smooth dark chocolate with crunchy back beans, and puffed rice. As we sampled the Moqueca, we couldn’t believe how well the savory blend of tomato, peppers, coconut played against the chocolate. I knew then I had to get more for the 37 Chocolates community.

When I returned to France last June, my dad drove me to Montfort l’Amaury, a chic village outside of Paris. There, I got a chance to see Marina again and pick all the bars for the tasting. She actually woke up early that day so I’d have enough bars to bring back to the US. How nice is that?

Marina Stroh-Ibri is on the left and I’m on the right

On October 22, you’ll discover the following bars, all of which happen to be vegan:

  • 70% Fazenda Camboa dark chocolate
  • 70% Tocantins River dark chocolate, which is made with wild cacao harvested by the Tocantins rivers
  • 70% Feijoada dark chocolate with black beans, puffed rice, and orange
  • 70% Moqueca dark chocolate with peppers, tomatoes, coconut, and coriander

Here’s the link to sign up.

So, will I see you then?

Did you like this article? Then sign up 37 Chocolates newsletter to be notified of blog updates and upcoming online chocolate tastings. For corporate and private tastings, please fill out this form and I’ll get back to you within 48 hours.

The 37 Chocolates Guide to Paris Chocolate Shops – Part 2

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 home!

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!

Michel Cluizel

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.

Michel Cluizel

201 Rue Saint Honoré

75001 Paris

Open Tuesday – Saturday from 10 AM to 2 PM and 3 PM to 7 PM. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

L’Instant Cacao

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.

L’Instant Cacao

3, rue des Petits Champs

75001 PARIS

Open Tuesday – Saturday, from 10 AM to 2 PM and 3 PM to 7 PM.

Plaq

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.

Good to know: Plaq is located in a vibrant neighborhood. You’ll like browsing the book selection at the adorable Petite Égypte before feasting at Salatim on some hummus and za’atar flatbread.

Plaq

4 Rue du Nil

75002 Paris

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.

La Brigaderie de Paris

14 Rue de Sancé

78490 Montfort l’Amaury 

Did you like this article? Then sign up 37 Chocolates newsletter to be notified of blog updates and upcoming online chocolate tastings. For corporate and private tastings, please fill out this form and I’ll get back to you within 48 hours.

A Modern Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Philadelphia

Imagine the scene: you’re in a specialty food store, staring at a chocolate shelf filled with dozens of options. Some bars are large and affordable, some are small and expensive. Some are certified organic, others are single origin.

Which one should you choose?

If you’re lucky, a knowledgeable store employee may be able to help you pick a bar you like. Otherwise, you may be tempted to pick the prettiest package/cheapest bar/biggest bar and regret your purchase at home.

Does the scene sound familiar? I know I’ve lived it early in my chocolate journey.

A year or so ago, I remember thinking, “wouldn’t it be nice if I could share some favorite shops and bars with people starting their chocolate journey?” And so the idea of “A Modern Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Philadelphia was born.

Today, the idea is now an Edible Philly magazine cover story that you can read in the latest issue of the magazine or online.

My goal for this piece was to create a guide you could throw in your purse to discover Philadelphia’s chocolate treasures — from chocolate-makers and chocolatiers to chocolate retailers, you’ll find recommendations that will help you kick start your own chocolate journey without the overwhelm.

Please sign up 37 Chocolates newsletter to be notified of blog updates and upcoming online chocolate tastings. For corporate and private tastings, please fill out this form and I’ll get back to you within 48 hours.

A Dream Come True + April Chocolate Tasting

Photo credit: Ruth Kennison, The Chocolate Project

Ever since I started my chocolate journey, I dreamed of connecting a loyal community of chocolate lovers with cacao, aka the source of our favorite food. Through a series of serendipitous encounters and good old-fashioned teamwork, that dream came true this month. 

On March 13, Melanie told us about how her team in Guatemala processes cacao beans into chocolate at Diego’s Chocolate. She went all out for us, cutting a fresh cacao pod, grinding cacao beans, and answering our many questions about their chocolate-process. Nico, the US distributor of Diego’s Chocolate, translated her explanations to non-Spanish makers like me. It was an amazing experience and the awe on every attendee’s faces made this tasting one for the books. 

If you missed Diego’s Chocolate tasting, don’t worry, you’ll have an opportunity to connect with another chocolate-maker on April 10.

Upcoming Online Tasting

A pioneer of the bean-to-bar movement, Amano Chocolate has been turning carefully sourced cacao beans into instant chocolate classics for 15 years. If you’ve had the company’s Dos Rios Bar, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If not, sign up to my next tasting to find out!

On Saturday, April 10, at 2 PM ET // 11 AM PT, you’ll sample three (vegan!) bars by Amano Chocolate and share your impressions with the group. Art Pollard, co-founder of Amano Chocolate, and his son Aaron Pollard, vice president and chocolate-maker, will share the stories behind each bar and answer your questions on their chocolate. I’m planning to bring a twist to the tasting, but I can’t say too much now 🙂 Tickets are $52/household and include three chocolate bars shipped to a US-based address. I saved a few spots to international attendees, please email me at estelle(at)37chocolates.com to arrange shipping.

On a side note, you can watch a 20-minute interview of Denise Castronovo by Seth Godin here. You’ll be hearing the story behind the Castronovo Chocolate 80% Arhuacos dark chocolate so many of you love. 

I hope to see you soon! If you’d like to schedule a private tasting for your family or team, please fill out the following form

If you’d like to be notified of blog updates and upcoming online chocolate tastings, please sign up 37 Chocolates newsletter.

Interview with Hasnaâ Ferreira, Founder of Hasnaâ Chocolats Grands Crus in Bordeaux, France

Hasnaâ Ferreira, founder of Hasnaâ Chocolats Grands Crus

There aren’t a lot of women bean-to-bar makers in the US, but there are even fewer in France. In fact, I was aware of zero female chocolate-makers in my homeland until I discovered Hasnaâ Chocolats Grands Crus a couple of years ago on Instagram. When I did, I was immediately drawn to Hasnaâ’s pistachio and raspberry wonder’barre and her kind personality. I took note of the company’s two retail shops in Bordeaux and promised myself to visit her chocolate mousse bar one day (yes, internet, a single origin chocolate mousse bar.)

Well, that day hasn’t come yet, but I did meet Hasnaâ Ferreira in Colombia last year. She and I were part of the same cacao sourcing trip organized by cacao broker Uncommon Cacao (merci to Denise Castronovo of Castronovo Chocolate for having me along.) Between bus rides on dirt roads and cacao plantation visits, I got plenty of opportunity to get to know her.

Born and raised on Morocco, Hasnaâ launched her company back in 2014 after a formal chocolatier training. Today, her chocolate repertoire covers everything from serious, two-ingredient bars to crowd-pleasing bonbons, all presented in eye-catching packaging (her husband, Vincent, was once a creative director, so he knows the importance of strong visuals.)

While her dark chocolate bars have a coarser texture that I like, I’m personally quite fond of her dark milk chocolate line (the Arhuacos is my fave.) Perhaps more importantly, the French woman goes above and beyond to positively impact the lives of her sourcing partners. A few months after returning from Colombia, Hasnaâ welcomed the brother of an Arhuaco* farmer in her Bordeaux workshop to teach him chocolate-making.

*The Arhuacos are an indigenous tribe in Colombia.

This summer, Bar & Cocoa started carrying Hasnaâ Chocolats Grands Crus in the US, so I thought you’d like to meet Hasnaâ before placing an order. You won’t find chocolate mousse on the site but I trust you to whip up a batch at home.

A couple of notes: we carried the interview in French; you’ll find both English and French versions hereafter. All photos are by Hasnaâ Chocolats Grands Crus.

Hello Hasnaâ and thank you for answering my questions. You’re the first woman who started turning cacao beans into chocolate in France, what motivated you to do that?

This is a second career for me. I was under the wrong impression that all chocolatiers worked straight from cacao beans and it wasn’t until I formally trained as a chocolatier that realized it wasn’t the case.

I find it both interesting and rewarding to work from the bean, as it allows you to express your sensibility through the first production stages of the chocolate-making production (i.e. roasting, conching). There are also not that many women [in the bean-to-bar chocolate industry], so that’s an additional motivation for me.

Bonjour Hasnaâ et merci de te livrer au jeu de l’interview avec moi. Tu as été la première femme en France qui s’est lancée dans la transformation des fèves de cacao, qu’est-ce qui a motivé cette démarche ?

En effet, je suis issue de la reconversion. Je pensais à tort que tout les chocolatiers travaillaient à partir de la fève. C’est pendant mon CAP chocolatier, que j’ai eu la confirmation du contraire.

Je trouve cela intéressant et enrichissant de travailler à partir de la fève. Cela permet d’exprimer sa sensibilité et de l’affirmer en jouant sur les premières étapes de la fabrication (torréfaction, conchage…) De plus, Il n’y a pas beaucoup de femmes [dans le chocolat bean-to-bar], alors c’est une motivation de plus.

When we met in Colombia last year, I got the impression that you only worked with beans from native cacao varieties, is that right?

That’s essentially it, but [I source from] Tanzania, India and other the countries that are not part of the Amazon basin and do not have native cacao trees. Since the quality of their beans is sublime and the societal impact is positive, we take them anyway.

Lorsque nous nous sommes rencontrées en Colombie l’an passé, j’ai cru comprendre que tu ne travaillais qu’avec des fèves issues de cacao natif, est-ce que tu peux le confirmer ?

C’est essentiellement ça. Mais [je source de] la Tanzanie, l’Inde et tous les pays qui ne font pas partie du bassin amazonien et n’ont pas de cacaoyers natifs. Mais comme la qualité de leurs fèves est sublime et que l’impact sociétal est positif, nous les prenons quand même.

Hasnaâ checking out drying beans

How do you choose your beans for your chocolate?

There are several criteria: origin, variety, quality of post harvest treatment, environmental and societal impact. We favor the diversity of origins, so we can draw a fairly large map for our customers.

Comment choisis-tu tes fèves pour ton chocolat ?

Il y a plusieurs critères : l’origine, la variété, la qualité du traitement post-récolte, l’impact environnemental et sociétal. Nous privilégions la diversité des origines, comme ça nous dessinons une carte assez large pour nos clients.

In addition to bean-to-bar chocolate, your chocolate factory is known for its chocolate mousse bar. Is this another way to let your clients know about different origins?

A very gourmand way. We notice that customers can feel the difference. A mousse made with a bean-to-bar chocolate is more intense and has a much longer finish in the mouth. Customers are delighted.

En plus des tablettes bean-to-bar, ta chocolaterie est connue pour son bar à mousse au chocolat. Est-ce une autre manière de faire connaitre différentes origines à tes client.e.s ?

Une manière très gourmande. Nous avons remarqué que les clients ressentaient la différence. Une mousse avec un chocolat bean-to-bar est plus intense et a beaucoup plus de longueur en bouche. Les clients sont ravis.

Chocolate mousse!

What is the reaction of your customers when they discover the bean-to-bar for the first time?

I pay close attention to the reaction of our customers who often discover bean-to-bar the first time with us. They’re often surprised by the strength and authenticity of our chocolates. For example, the Piura Blanco has been a revelatory chocolate for some because of its very clear grapefruit notes. One person once told me: “you put a lot of grapefruit in it.” I had to explain it was the natural flavor of the cacao bean.

Quelle est la réaction de tes client.e.s quand ils découvrent le bean-to-bar pour la première fois ?

J’observe attentivement nos clients qui ont souvent découvert le bean-to-bar chez nous. Ils sont souvent surpris par la force et l’authenticité de nos chocolats. Par exemple, le Piura Blanco a été un chocolat révélateur pour certains car il a des notes de pamplemousse très marquées. [Une] personne a dit : “Vous avez mis beaucoup de pamplemousse dedans”. J’ai dû confirmer que c’était la saveur naturelle de la fève.

Oh I love this anecdote! This bars goes so well with orange, we tested on the plane with Denise [Castronovo of Castronovo Chocolate]!

Same for the Bolivia chocolate, another person told me: “There is too much honey in it.”

Oh j’adore cette anecdote ! Cette tablette se marie bien avec l’orange, on avait testé dans l’avion avec Denise [Castronovo de Castronono Chocolate] !

Pareil pour le chocolat de Bolivie, une autre personne m’a dit : “Il y a trop de miel dedans”.

Hasnaâ at the chocolate mousse bar

Last fall, you welcomes Hernan’s brother Francisco to train him on bean-to-bar making. What was your motivation and what’s your memory of that time?

First of all, it was to help him and share our know-how with him. [The Arhuacos] are already great at growing cacao trees and fermenting cacao beans. However, they don’t know how to do everything else, so [welcoming Francisco] was a way of giving back to this community. The experience has grown into a powerful memory.

À l’automne dernier tu avais reçu le frère d’Hernan, Francisco, pour le former au bean-to-bar. Quelle a été ta motivation et que gardes-tu comme souvenir de cet apprentissage ?

C’est d’abord pour l’aider et pour partager avec lui tout notre savoir faire. [Les Arhuacos] savent très bien cultiver des cacaoyers et travailler la fève en fermentation. En revanche, ils ne savent pas faire tout le reste. Alors, pour nous c’était une façon de rendre un peu à cette communauté. J’en garde un souvenir très marquant.

Do you have specific memory to share?

He never runs, he embraces slowness. He didn’t eat much. He doesn’t understand the concept of eating at fixed times. Above all, he thought we ate a lot (appetizer, entrée, dessert). Also, he sowed the fruit stones at home because that’s what they do in nature! It was funny.

Also, he didn’t know the principle of time difference. His family did not understand that it was dark at home while it was still daylight where they were.

Un souvenir précis à partager ?

Il ne court jamais, il fait l’éloge de la lenteur. Il ne mangeait pas beaucoup. Il ne comprend pas le concept de manger à heures fixes. Et surtout il trouvait qu’on mangeait beaucoup (entrée, plat et dessert). Aussi, il semait les noyaux de fruits à la maison parce que dans la nature ils font comme ça ! C’était drôle.

Aussi, il ne connaissait pas le principe du décalage horaire. Sa famille ne comprenait pas qu’il faisait nuit chez nous pendant qu’il faisait jour chez eux.

An anecdote to share?

Vincent was preparing our first dark milk chocolate, which included Arhuacos. And since [Francisco] is not a chocolate-maker, he added the cocoa butter without paying attention to its temperature. As a result, the milk powder in the chocolate warmed up a bit, which changed the taste and texture of the chocolate. We then decided to use it in the mousses because the texture was not suitable for bars. Since then, it’s become our bestselling mousse, so we decided to make all our chocolate for the mousses.

Une anecdote à partager ?

Vincent était entrain de préparer notre premier chocolat dark milk notamment l’arhuacos. Et comme [Francisco] n’est pas chocolatier, il a ajouté le beurre de cacao sans faire attention à la température. Du coup, la poudre de lait dans le chocolat a un peu chauffé ce qui a changé le goût et la texture du chocolat. Nous avions décidé alors de l’utiliser pour les mousses car la texture n’était pas adaptée pour les tablettes. Depuis c’était la meilleure vente chez mousse et on a décidé de fabriquer tout notre chocolat pour les mousses.

I understand he made his first bars?

Yes, I taught him more than that. He learned to make pâtes de fruits, jams, and pralines.

Il a réalisé ses premières tablettes, il me semble ?

Oui, je lui ai même montré plus que ça. Il a appris à faire des pâtes de fruits, de la confiture et des pralinés.

Which three Hasnaâ bars would you recommend to someone who’s not yet familiar with your world? Also, do you have a favorite origin?

Idukki 71%, Tanzania 74%, and Chuncho 75%.

Idukki: full-bodied and floral.

Tanzania: balanced and elegant.

Chuncho: fresh and intense.

My favorite is wild Bolivia but we don’t have it right now.

Quelles sont les trois tablettes Hasnaâ que tu recommenderais à quelqu’un qui ne connait pas encore ton univers ? Et toi, tu as une origine chouchoute ?

Idukki 71%, Tanzanie 74% et Chuncho 75%

Idukki : charnu et fleuri.

Tanzanie : équilibré et raffiné.

Chuncho : frais, Intense

Mon préféré c’est le Bolivie sauvage mais on ne l’a pas actuellement.

Your company’s been around for six years now, what do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?

I’m especially proud of working from the cacao bean because it’s a real accomplishment here in France. What’s great is being in contact with the raw product and above all close to the producers and contribute to providing them with the income they deserve.

Ton entreprise existe depuis 6 ans, de quoi es-tu le plus fière ?

Je suis surtout fière du travail de la fève, car ici en France c’est un véritable exploit. Ce qui est génial c’est d’être au contact du produit brut et surtout proche des producteurs et contribuer à leur fournir le revenu qu’ils méritent.

What can we wish you for the future? Do you have a final word?

To keep doing my best and continue to please customers. I’m very happy to be at Bar and Cocoa, it’s a great opportunity for us!

Qu’est-ce qu’on peut te souhaiter pour la suite ? Un mot pour finir ?

De continuer à faire de mon mieux et de continuer à plaire à les clients. Je suis très heureuse d’être chez Bar and Cocoa, pour nous c’est génial !

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CBD Craft Chocolate: an Interview with Iris Stork, Co-Founder Of Solkiki

Bob Spink and Iris Stork, founders or Solkiki. Photo credit:  Michal Lucky

Disclaimer: Solkiki gifted me both of their CBD bars prior to this interview.

Fine, I’ll admit: Solkiki got me at CBD. Once you read this brilliant piece of reporting on cannabidiol (CBD), my guess is you’ll feel the same. Sadly, my only experience with CBD-infused edibles left me unimpressed (who knew gummy bears could taste that bad?), so I haven’t ingested as much CBD as I thought I would by now. That was until Solkiki sent me one of each of their CBD bars all the way from the UK.

Solkiki makes good chocolate and by good, I mean award-winning, boldly flavored bars that so happen to be vegan. Since 2008, founders Iris Stork and Bob Spink have blown tastebuds away with inventive bars like The Elvis with salted peanuts and bananas or Dutch Breakfast Cake, a 70% dark chocolate with spiced cake crumbs, alongside high percentage, single origin dark chocolate. Their product range is wide (43 bars!), but every variety I’ve tried has packed a ton of flavor. If anyone would make CBD-infused chocolate taste good, I knew it would be Iris and Bob. Here’s the video proof:

In addition to making great chocolate, Iris and Bob are such nice people. They show a lot of gratitude for their audience by actually engaging with them on Instagram. They answer comments and direct messages by writing whole sentences, if not paragraphs!!! (Yes I used three exclamation marks because IT IS A BIG DEAL!!!). I appreciate that so much, I swear it makes the chocolate taste better.

We could all use an extra dose of kind right now, so I sat down with Iris to talk about CBD chocolate, working with a spouse, and what bars she’d recommend ordering beside the 33mg CBD and 77mg CBD bars. I hope you enjoy.

You are known for your delicious vegan bars and you recently added CBD chocolate to your line-up, what motivated that decision?

The CBD bars were at least 2 years ago, Bob is just checking that. Ah he says it was 2017. It always takes a while for things to get noticed.

We met Daisy and Bart from Daiba at a fair in 2016, we tried their CBD oil and got chatting about how our bars would taste with their CBD oil. There was a lot of bad CBD oil at the market at the time (low amount of CBD) and the chocolate that we did find with CBD oil was also made with industrial chocolate. We felt that people deserved better CBD and also deserved better chocolate, the flavours were much better when we made it!

Solkiki CBD 77mg Photo credit:  Michal Lucky

CBD has a very strong taste, was it challenging to create CBD chocolate that tasted good?

We experimented with CBD oil because we liked the flavours, we’re selling it because there is a demand for it. Often, we design bars just for ourselves. So, we never know if people like it. It’s a huge bonus if they do of course.

It was a challenge to create a nice chocolate with CBD oil. We tried lots of different cacaos and different percentages, different recipes with different fat content and different amounts of CBD oil.

That sounds like a lot of work!

We’re just having a discussion on how many experiments we did. Bob says about 30 before we chose our recipes, I honestly don’t remember, but there were many.

When we’re after a certain flavour, flavour combo or idea, we go for as long as we need to, we don’t do short cuts, life is too short to be so short. We stop when we feel confident it can’t be improved.

We’re always working on experiments in the background. This morning as well, but I can’t tell you what it is yet. We’ve done about 7 experiments this week. Some are for our exclusive subscriptions and others are for our core range.

Solkiki CBD 33 mg. Photo credit:  Michal Lucky

Could you tell us more about the chocolate base you used for your CBD bars? Lots of people do not know about cacao varieties, so what do you think they should know about the Gran Nativo Blanco?

The chocolate base is 63% Gran Nativo Blanco. It’s a dark milk, but without dairy of course, since we don’t use animal products, but made with a coconut milk. The coconut milk is very understated and most people don’t even detect it.

The Gran Nativo is a Piura and a typical Piura in the sense that it is fruity and tangy and contains lots of white cacao beans, which in our hands helps create a creamy chocolate. We source this cacao through Luis [Mancini] from Cacaotales in Northwest Peru.

Do you mean they naturally contain more cocoa butter?

It’s not a particular fatty bean I would say, when I said creamy chocolate, I meant the white beans bring a softer profile in this case to the flavour of the chocolate. Not so much the structure or texture.

Craft chocolate remains a niche in the chocolate industry. Do you find that your CBD bars help draw a new clientele to your brand? Do customers come to you for CBD chocolate and browse the rest of your selection?

There is a different audience for CBD, I’m sure it helps promote craft chocolate. At the fairs (before Corona[virus]) we meet people who are just interested in CBD. After chatting a bit with them and tasting our chocolate, a lot of them walk away with a few extra bars without CBD. So, we hope we create more interest this way for craft chocolate.

It works the other way around too. Some people come to us for the craft chocolate and by coming to us they can try CBD for the first time and they then get more into the CBD this way.

We all have to help each other we feel. Good chocolate introduces good CBD. Like what you do helps the craft chocolate industry and hopefully interviewing us helps the movement and everything too 😉

Photo credit:  Michal Lucky

Amen! You’ve been making chocolate for years now and I’m struck at how connected to your customers and general audience you’ve stayed. You promptly reply to Instagram direct messages and take time to connect with us despite a busy schedule. How important is it for you? Am I the only person who comments on it?

We hear it a lot. I was a bit surprised at first when people starting commenting on us responding to them and sometimes even late at night or at the weekend. For us it was just common decency. We do sincerely appreciate everyone’s personal interest in us and our chocolate. People take time to connect with us and we feel it’s normal to respond back. Often people assume we are a huge business, this is obviously not the case. We are very busy, but we both make it a priority to respond as quickly as we can as it is the people that reach out to us that allow us to keep making chocolate. We are very grateful for the life we have and the opportunity to make a difference with our chocolate.

Do you feel that this personal touch is part of the Solkiki brand?

I’m not sure that a personal touch is part of our Solkiki brand, I hadn’t really thought of it in that way. It almost sounds corporate that way. I suppose it is a part of Solkiki as it’s just a part of us.

I know what you mean, people often don’t respond back when we ask something, but I do find that when I respond to people online or send them a personal message back they’re really suprised! Then they’re really lovely back, it is appreciated, so that is wonderful.

Do you have any employees?

No employees, it’s just Bob and I. The kids help us eat chocolate, haha, very helpful, they help out with tastings often and also little things like putting stickers on things etc. I made ‘palate training’ part of our homeschooling haha.

They’re absolutely amazing by the way, I think children’s palates are better than ours, they just need bigger vocabularies, I think.

How do you manage to separate personal and professional lives? Or do you even try?

There are of course good sides and more challenging sides to that. It’s a great question.

There are always so many things to discuss, creatively, practically, social media that goes on for 24/7, so it’s a bit of a conveyor belt of work that never stops, so it’s always challenging to compartmentalise. We’re often talking chocolate in one way or another, but we have other interests as well which helps a lot and takes us away from chocolate.

You have to try to have a variety in your life, that goes for everyone I think. It keeps life interesting.

Photo credit:  Michal Lucky

You have a large selection of bars on the site, what are four bars you’d recommend to someone who’s new to your brand?

I was talking it over earlier with Bob which bars we would recommend. It’s always surprisingly difficult to recommend just a few because the bars are all so different in their own ways, [it] could be the types of inclusions or the different cacao we use. We like to be creative with our flavours, but we are also always very interested to make the cacao shine in its own glory and terroir, we do our best to bring out the right flavours and create a nice balance of flavour and experience.

When people come to us at fairs and they are a bit overwhelmed with choice, as we have a lot of bars, I typically then start them out on our 60% salted caramel, dark (coconut) milk, Marañón, Peru. This was one of our very first bars. The Marañón cacao has a great story behind it since it was a cacao that was one thought to have been lost for about a century. But most of all, it has a very pleasant flavour! People who like dark chocolate like it and people who like milk like it. The salt is ground through the chocolate and grinding ingredients through the chocolate is something that bean-to-bar makers can do.

Another chocolate we want to recommend is our latest release, it’s called ‘So Woke’. It’s a cacao butter bar, it doesn’t contain any (plant) milks of any kind, but it does contain a lot of coffee and a very nice coffee at that, it was the nicest we could find. I know you have tried this bar. We included this bar into our ‘Taste of 2073‘ range. This is a collection of future chocolate that is made without any plant based milks nor any other type of milk, we’re sourcing ingredients that we think will be easier to source, that don’t need a lot of water to create, are traditional and sustainable ingredients. We feel that chocolate-making will be moving into more sustainable directions and we want to show that you can make amazing chocolate without relying on unsustainable or cruel ingredients, but not compromise on flavour at all!

Then, we are also proud of our single estate or single source chocolate. We often recommend our 70% dark chocolate, Chililique, Peru to people that are looking for dark chocolate that is a bit unusual and more fruity. It’s a good chocolate to start people on when they are being introduced to craft chocolate, it also pairs really well with various wines, liquors and other drinks, so we are told over and over.

So far, I recommended a dark milk bar, a cacao butter bar, a dark bar, which leaves me a white. Oh yeah, the 70% Chililique bar won so many awards, I can’t mention them all. Same as with my white bar recommendation, the Yirgacheffe coffee & red skin peanut white chocolate bar. We ground the roast peanuts through the chocolate, together with the Ethiopian coffee to get a smooth mouthfeel. This bar also won a crazy amount of awards and is one of the bars that many people keep coming back to us for. The coffee is understated in this bar, think of a hint, rather than a shot of coffee. Completely different than our So Woke white chocolate.

I was going to pick the Marañón dark and the Yirgacheffe coffee with peanuts!

You can still pick the Marañón dark if you mean the 68%. This was also one of our very first bars and we won so many awards with that bar. We love the flavours in the Marañón cacao. There are very clear honey notes, alongside red grapefruit which is more of a rare finding with dark chocolate we think. The 68% is just cacao beans and sugar, no added cacao butter. It means the bar has a slow melt, but your flavour journey, whilst you let the chocolate melt, is much longer. That chocolate is also a pain to temper haha, it’s so viscous when it’s liquid, it can almost stand up on its own, but it’s well worth it.

You can order Solkiki chocolate at solkiki.co.uk and follow Iris and Bob on Instagram.

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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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The 37 Chocolates Guide to Paris Chocolate Shops – Part 1

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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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