Before cocoa was enjoyed in its solid form, royals across the globe sipped it as hot chocolat chaud. When Anne of Austria married Louis XIII in 1615 she brought with her to the court of France her taste for the exotic new beverage. And when Marie-Antoinette married Louis XVI 150 years later, she arrived at Versailles with her official “Chocolate Maker to the Queen”. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, drinking chocolate was all the rage amongst the nobility and upper classes. Today, chocolate remains a daily treat for the French, notably with the indulgence of a pain au chocolat (flaky croissants or puff pastry filled with dark chocolate) for, of all things, breakfast. And the fine art of chocolate making is on par with those other French culinary arts of baking and winemakng. So of course, the city flaunts a number of exceptional artisan chocolatiers. Here are the five I can’t pass without stopping for a sweet.
Self-taught, this master chocolate-maker describes himself as a “rebel.” Sample his exceptional chocolates, caramals, fruit jellies, and a small selection of cakes—including an unforgettable Paris-Brest (known for its circular shaped choux pastry and praline cream)—inside his smart tea room in the Northern Marais. A spiral staircase leads upstairs to the laboratory where everything is made.
Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse
Alain Ducasse now supplies all his Michelin-starred restaurants with his own outstanding chocolates, made here in a former atelier in the once-industrial distrct surrounding Bastille. In addition to the range of excellent bonbons filled with ganache, praline, or truffle, the maison specializes in chocolate blocks. Try the Mendiant, dark chocolate with a variety of toppings (carmelised hazelnuts; candied orange).
While Hermé may perhaps be better known for his cakes and macaroons, the iconic Parisian pastry chef’s chocolate confections have been gaining attention for their inventive flavors. Enjoy assorted chocolates at his shop, including the signature Ispahan that combines chocolate and raspberry ganache with lychee and rose fruit jelly, all coated in a thin layer of dark chocolate.
A la Mère de Famille
Virtually unchanged for more than 250 years, this historic chocolate and candy store will transport you back to 1761 with its old-fashioned wooden cashier desk, glittering chandeliers, and colorful window displays. Make sure you sample the handcrafted marshmallows, and the ice creams (chocolate with candied orange and vodka) in the summertime.
The prizewinning Belgian chocolatier opened his first boutique in Paris back in 2003. He is known for his single-origin chocolates, packaged in gorgeous square blocks. Other favourites include his Earl Grey-flavoured ganache or the superb chocolate-covered marshmallows. Visitors come to Marcolini’s for the great confections, as well as to browse through the immaculate, contemporary space.