Newsletter Archives

August 2000 - For The Love Of Chocolate

Attention chocoholics! Put aside your Hershey’s kisses and prepare to taste the real thing! Because once you have landed in Paris, you will have at your fingertips some of the finest chocolate produced the world over.
Paris's annual Salon du Chocolat is scheduled for 28 October through 1 November 2000, and is open to the Paris’s annual Salon du Chocolat is scheduled for 28 public. This chocolate fair will take place at the Espace Branly, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. With dégustations (tastings) of chocolates produced by the best chocolatiers of France as well as free cooking and chocolate-making demonstrations, how can you go wrong? Indulge yourself!

The French have a long-standing love affair with chocolate. Ever since its introduction to the country by Anne of Austria in 1615 (it was presented as a wedding gift upon her marriage to Louis XIII), there has been no end to the delight as well as the controversy inspired by the product made from the native Mexican cocoa bean. Here are a few “morsels” of information for you to savor:

  • Chocolate is made from a mixture of cocoa (dry extract or paste and cocoa butter) and sugar. The more cocoa, the more bitter (and better, according to connoisseurs) the chocolate. For the French, a good dark chocolate, or chocolat noir, must contain at least 48% cocoa. 70% cocoa content is considered ideal.
  • Milk chocolate (chocolat au lait) must contain at least 25% cocoa, with confections containing 40% cocoa being classified as gourmet quality. A maximum of 50% sugar content is allowed.
  • The cocoa content of white chocolate (chocolat blanc) is derived exclusively from cocoa butter (20%).
  • France’s most favored sources of cocoa beans are Venezuela, Trinidad, Ecuador, Guyana, Martinique and Brazil.
  • Who are the most avid chocolate eaters? The Swiss come in first, with an annual consumption of over 10 kg (22 lbs) per person. The French consume roughly 7 kg (15 lbs) per person per year. Americans lag behind with an annual consumption of approximately 5.5 kg (12 lbs) per person.
  • Over 17 million French citizens consume chocolate on a daily basis.
  • In the 1800’s, there was considerable debate in France as to whether chocolate was beneficial or detrimental to human health. Two Parisians set out to take advantage of the controversy – they dared to sell chocolate as a medicine! The charming pharmacy turned chocolate shop where this occurred is still in business today. It has even opened an annex, making its chocolates available to Parisians and tourists alike on both sides of the Seine.
  • The French eat much more chocolate during the winter than during the summer. Almost 80% of the chocolate sales in Paris occur during the Christmas holiday season. 35,000 tons of chocolate were consumed during the 1998 Christmas holiday season!
  • French children look for chocolate treats on Easter Sunday just as American kids do. But it is not the Easter Bunny who leaves the delicacies shaped as eggs, bunnies, chicks and fish – instead, the chocolates are left by flying church bells as they make their way back to Rome!
  • In France, a praline is a dark, milk or white chocolate shell filled with a finely flavored cream or paste. The varieties are seemingly endless!
  • The European Union has recently decided to allow the replacement of up to 5% cocoa butter by certain tropical vegetable oils in chocolate. This has created a huge outcry among the chocolate-making artisans throughout France, who fear and detest the erosion of the standards that distinguish their excellent products from those of Great Britain and the United States.
  • Belgian chocolates contain more cocoa butter than do French ones. For the Belgians, this makes their chocolate superior. But the French are in total disagreement with this assessment. There are several Belgian chocolate shops in Paris, including the prestigious Godiva. Why not take advantage of your holiday in Paris and make your own comparisons?

Paris Panorama Newsletters for 2000