There’s only one way we at Cocoa Runners could celebrate Bastille Day and that’s with some decadently delicious French chocolate. We’ve created a special collection just for the occasion, stuffed with some of the best craft chocolate bars from l’Hexagone.
As we you dig in to these truly exceptional bars we thought we’d take a look at some of the reasons we love the French chocolate so much. You can read on to find out more, and if you want to taste as you go, you can buy our limited edition Best of France collection here.
We talk a lot about the recent chocolate revolution. Over the past decade there has been a huge resurgence in craft makers as people rediscover the forgotten craft of chocolate making. France is perhaps the only place where this isn’t the case, because in France this craft was never lost. Makers such as Bonnat, Pralus and Cluizel have been crafting chocolate from the bean for longer than almost anyone else.
Take Stephane Bonnat. The sixth generation chocolatier still crafts his bars in the same workshop that Felix Bonnat opened in 1884. Some of the original machinery is still in use, while others have been designed exactly as they were. Bonnat still follows traditional methods and much is done by hand. But innovation also has its place – alongside this Bonnat has also custom-designed other modern machinery to compliment the traditional.
The French chocolate tradition isn’t just about history, it’s about perfection that can only come from obsession.
Francois Pralus’ love of the Madagascan bean, has led to him buying a plantation there. Not only does this mean he can control every stage of the chocolate making but also how the beans are grown, fermented and dried.
Pralus’ continued fascination and dedication has also led him to seek out numerous different beans from around the world and develop bars that capture the flavour of each. Always looking for new challenges he currently uses 16 different origins while Bonnat sources cacao from a staggering 35 different plantations worldwide. Each origin is treated with individual respect. Each presents a unique challenge as makers try to craft the beans into the best possible bar.
As craft chocolate took hold, the number of makers in the USA the number of makers has grown exponentially. In France, where respect for tradition and continuity are so important, we haven’t seen the same frenzy of newcomers. But we there are still some new players. Two of our recent discoveries are Chocolat Chapon and Ara (Sabrina & Andres hail from Venezuela but chose to begin their chocolate enterprise in France).
French chocolate makers also aren’t afraid to innovate. Patrice Chapon has created a single-origin mousse bar. Instead of choosing a different flavour of ice cream to devour on a hot day, you can choose a chocolate mousse made with beans from various origins. Patrice even has his own mousse bar that can be seen driving around Paris.
And when it comes to true chocolate innovators, look no further than Bertil Akesson. The son of a Swedish diplomat, Akesson grew up in France (which is where he now makes his chocolate). Bertil was a key part of the new chocolate revolution. He was one of the first people to start selling high quality, Madagascan cocoa beans to small makers around the world (including others in France such as Bonnat and Ara).
France’s chocolate tradition is an inspiration for many other makers. Whether they are buying beans from Bertil Akesson or remembering the taste of Bonnat from their childhood.
One of the key concepts for craft chocolate is ‘terroir’, a term borrowed from the French wine industry. A fundamental element to the cacao’s taste, terroir refers to the environmental conditions where the cacao is grown. Marou is one maker who has taken this to heart and exported across the world to Vietnam. Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou, the company’s French founders, craft all their bars in Vietnam and source the beans for each from a different Vietnamese province or terroir.
Last but by no means least, one thing we truly love about French craft chocolate. Just like their ‘patisserie pur beurre’, French craft chocolate is often butter-rich. Here the butter in question is cocoa butter. This is the natural fat present in the cocoa bean and is what makes real chocolate melt so delicious in the mouth. Adding additional cocoa butter to your bar creates rich, dense and ever so smooth texture we have come to love from many French makers.
And if you want to taste for yourself, why not try our limited edition Best of France collection?