Issue 31: Bean to Bar Chocolate, France
An introduction to members of the Bean to Bar France Association
Last month, I was in Paris for the Salon du Chocolat. It was also a chance to explore the bean to bar chocolate movement in France. Bean to bar chocolate makers are those who source (most often sustainably) cocoa beans direct from farmers and then turn those into chocolate. A chocolatier on the other hand buys chocolate and then uses it to make their own creations out of chocolates. There are many reasons why bean to bar chocolate is so interesting but one of the main ones relates to flavour. Chocolate makers source high quality beans and then do everything they can to bring out the flavours that are naturally present in those beans. The result are chocolate bars that can taste fruity, spicy, fudgy, as diverse as wines.
Bean To Bar France is a relatively new association that brings together chocolate makers in France. In order to join, each maker must sign a Charter of Good Practice ensuring responsible conduct from the sourcing all the way to the finished product. Today I thought I’d introduce you to some of the members of this association (there are 21 in total spread out across the country).
One of my favourite French chocolate makers is Ara Chocolate (54 Rue de Dunkerque in the 9th arrondissement). You know you are close when you start to smell the chocolate wafting out of the shop’s air vents. Andres and Sabrina (both originally from Venezuela) started selling in 2015, a few years after Andres discovered and fell in love with cocoa trees back in Venezuela. Andres was previously a pastry chef, working in 3 star restaurants and 5 star hotels before deciding to make chocolate. Although it was closed the day I walked past (public holiday), luckily I have some very good friends who have very good taste who gifted me several bars. I really like their packaging. They use the same resealable envelop for all of their bars and add a sticker to the top with specific information on that bar. I also like how they do their tasting notes (how fruity, spicy or nutty it is rather than telling you what you might/should taste exactly).
Just down the road from Ara is Les Copains de Bastien (90, rue de Maubeuge in the 10th arrondissement). I only just realised this though while writing this newsletter! I was so close…next time. They launched in 2021.
There are currently 21 members of the association and although I didn’t get the chance to speak to all of them, I did do some mini interviews with a few of them at the Salon du Chocolat. The Salon du Chocolat is a huge chocolate focused event that takes place annually in Paris (and in other cities around the world at different times of the year). It includes not just bean to bar chocolate but chocolatiers as well. I’ll share more on that in another newsletter.
Lady Merveilles was started in 2015 in Brittany by Marine Schmitt. She uses Fair Trade and organic ingredients and packages her chocolate in French made biodegradable and compostable materials. The cacao comes from Ecuador, Peru, Belize, India and Brazil. She is also a recent International Chocolate Awards Winner so defiantly one to check out. She has a range of single origin bars as well as several with inclusions (mint and pepper intrigued me the most!). Click on the image below to view the interview (1 min - in English).
L’Instant Cacao had a stand that was bigger than the size of his shop in Paris (which was closed when I passed by…probably because he was at the Salon!). You can also visit him at 3 rue des Petits Champ in the 1st arrondissement. If you want a lesson on how to fit all the machines you need to make chocolate from bean to bar AND a shop front in a tiny space, there are many examples in Paris, this one probably being one of the most impressive (this video shows you what it looks like). Marc Chinchole, who has a background as a pastry chef, started selling bean to bar chocolate in 2018 after spending time at La Maison du Chocolate and Chocolaterie Chapon. Click on the video below for an intro from Marc himself (1 min - in French).
Next up was Romain from Cacao Experience, one of two brothers (one a chocolatier and the other a graphic designer) from Strasbourg. Their ambition is to create chocolate that is experienced through all of the senses. They source beans from India, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Tanzania and have a bar made with Ewe’s milk which I found interesting. Click on the image below to watch the full video (1 min - in French).
I also spoke with from Aurelien, one half of La Baleine a Cabosse in Marseille. They discovered cacao on a trip to Colombia and today they showcase chocolate made from beans from different regions of that country. The video is noisy because the French stand was right next to the stand for chocolate from Ghana which had not only lots of chocolate grown and made in Ghana, but also a live DJ and music. Click below for his interview (2min - in French).
While most French makers had small stands, Shouka has a large one (which included hot chocolates for sale). Based in Chamonix, they also sell coffee from bean to cup. The brand puts the harvest date on the packaging which I found to be interesting and not something you see very much of (yet?) in chocolate. Every cacao harvest is going to taste slightly different (again, like wine), which also means that chocolate made from those beans can taste different. Click on the image below for the full interview (4 minutes- in French).
Another maker with a big stand was 20Nord20Sud based in. The name represents the area of the world where cocoa grows (20 degrees north and south of the equator). They were doing an amazing job at educating visitors about bean to bar chocolate at the salon, especially because they were sandwiched in between other stands selling huge blocks of cheap chocolate. I got the chance to speak with founder Melanie who opened this all female chocolate factor in Vendee just over a year ago. Click on the image below for the interview (2 min - in French).
Another member of the French Bean to Bar Association is Chocolat Cazenave. I visited Cazenave in Bayonne a few years ago to try their famous hot chocolate. The shop/cafe was opened in 1854 and not only do they make beautiful chocolate, but have a stunning cafe (which includes an intricate Art Nouveau stained-glass ceiling from the 19th century). The chocolate is whisked the traditional way (look at that froth!!). To read the full post on Chocolat Cazenave, click here.
Last but not least, if you are in Paris and looking to buy some of this chocolate, then look no further than Kosak. Started by bean to bar chocolate experts Nathalie and Catherine, this store is amazing. If you have any questions at all about bean to bar chocolate in France (or elsewhere) they can help. They don’t just carry French bars but bars from around the world. It may seem a little out of the way on the map if you are visiting but it really isn’t. It is just down the hill from the touristy area of Montmartre.
There are other bean to bar chocolate makers in Paris/France that are making chocolate at a much larger scale. I’ll be covering those in the next few weeks.
This Week’s Chocolate News
I am completely obsessed with Goodnow Farms drinking chocolates…completely.
The best spots in Los Angeles, USA to drink Champurrado and hot chocolate.
Prince Edward Island, Canada, has a Hot Chocolate Trail going on until the 18th of December.
Who’s going to pay for an ethical chocolate bar?
Mars Wrigley chocolate bars to be packaged in recyclable, reusable or compostable material by 2025
Thanks for reading and have a great week!
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