Parisians have a sophisticated palate for chocolate, and they favor intense, dark chocolate over milk chocolate. French chocolatiers are always refining and working on elevating the art of chocolate-making and in recent years, there’s been a proliferation of “bean-to-bar” chocolate makers. The term “bean-to-bar” means the chocolate companies import and roast their own beans to produce their own chocolate. The advantages are that they have a better control over the quality of the chocolate, and they could adjust the tastes and add flavorings to their own preferences.
Here are the top two bean to bar chocolate shops in Paris. (Warning: Don’t read this article if you are a chocoholic and don’t have any on hand!)
L’Instant Cacao, a tiny shop, just behind the Palais Royal, lined with burlap sacks of cacao beans on the floor, packs a lot of great chocolate into a small space. The young, twenty-something-year-old owner, Marc Chinchole, is a veritable one-man operation and does it all: Roasts the beans, oversees the hours-long process of turning them into liquid chocolate, does the packaging and, finally, is the sales point person.
There’s an extensive tablet collection, with over 25 selections of mostly dark chocolate, and the eclectic flavors include dark chocolate with kumquats, salty and sweet with praline, smoked salt, red pepper, and white chocolate scented with goat’s milk and curry.
Other offerings include chocolate-covered orange and ginger rind, Florentines, which are dark chocolate disks with slivered, caramelized almonds, along with passionfruit and apricot-, honey and chestnut-, and licorice-flavored ganaches. In the fall and winter, L’Instant Cacao serves a rich, thick hot chocolate.
L’Instant Cacao is open Tuesday to Saturday.
Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse
World renowned chef Alain Ducasse is constantly expanding his culinary empire, not only with restaurants but also with food products.
In 2014, Ducasse partnered with pastry chef and chocolatier Nicolas Berger to open the first bean-to-bar chocolate shop in Paris. Located near the Bastille inside a courtyard, the original shop has a glass-enclosed facility with machines where you can view the chocolate beans being roasted and processed. The industrial style décor of the shop has concrete floors, exposed brick walls, and the handsome showcase in the middle has curved glass with cast iron levers to open them. Plain natural cardboard boxes with a black carrying cord reflect the industrial theme.
Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse offers an astounding variety of 47 chocolate bars, ranging from 45 percent to 85 percent cacao percentages, with flavors from across the globe from countries such as Mexico, Vietnam, Bolivia, Madagascar, India, the Philippines, Honduras and Ecuador. They also produce a sugar-free bar and vegan bar using coconut milk.
Other products available are chocolate spreads with peanuts and hazelnuts, a hexagon-shaped tablet studded with dried fruits and nuts, chocolate-covered candied ginger, lemon and grapefruit peels, cocoa powder to make hot chocolate, and their signature product, a large block of chocolate packed in a wooden tray with a mallet to break it up.
If you like strong coffee to go with your chocolate, Alain Ducasse has opened a nearby coffee bar.
There are about 15 branches of Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse around Paris, including an in-store counter at Galeries Lafayette and a stall at the Gare du Nord train station. Hours are: Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.