I was born and raised a few kilometers west of Paris and went to school a few blocks from where our tour was taking place in St Germain des Pres. As a food enthusiast, I thought I knew everything about chocolate and pastries in Paris.
Learning about gourmet chocolate in Paris and visiting some of the most famous chocolate and pastry stores in the world is quite amazing.
Chocolate lovers and pastry amateurs, get ready to enter a new world of sweet delights!
Paris Chocolate Tour Starts in St Germain des Pres
Context Travel, is a different kind of tour company. It is best known for offering unique experiences with private guides and small group tours for the ‘intellectually curious traveler.’
We met our guide, Jill Colonna, at 2pm on a sunny Friday afternoon in the left bank, at the entrance of St Germain des Pres church. While Jill is Scottish, she is married to a Corsican and has lived in France for over 24 years.
Right away, we were captivated by Jill’s enthusiasm and passion for French pastries. That’s when we learned that Jill is the author of two books – Teatime in Paris and Mad About Macarons.
We knew then we were in for a treat (quite literally) and that we would enjoy the chocolates and pastries while learning about French culture.
And with that, our small group of 6, including the two of us were off to our first stop.
Gourmet Chocolate as Medicine at Debauve & Gallais
Imagine a time in France, when the only way to get chocolate was through the pharmacist. This was the case with Sulpice Debauve, who was the pharmacist to the King of France, Louis XVI and his wife, Marie-Antoinette.
At the time, Marie-Antoinette suffered from intense headaches. The medicine given to treat the headaches unfortunately had a revolting taste. So, their pharmacist, Sulpice Debauve created a mix of butter and cacao to disguise the taste of the medicine.
Marie-Antoinette loved the taste and she baptised these coin-shaped pieces of chocolates, “pistoles.”
For our first stop on this Paris chocolate tour, we made our way to rue des St. Peres to the store that was built in the 1800. Walking into this old Parisian store is getting a taste of aristocracy, the noble class of old France. The chocolates are lined up preciously and each piece is handled with white-gloves.
Here, we sampled the “pistoles” and pieces of exquisite dark gourmet chocolate. Referred to as “chocolatier de luxe” for more than 200 years, this is the perfect start to sample the history of chocolates in France.
Ladurée: Classic Stop For The Famous Macarons
When you think about France, one of the most popular pastries that probably comes to mind is the macaron. As such, a Paris Chocolate Tour would not be complete without a visit to Ladurée, the largest macaron house in the world.
On Rue Bonaparte, you will find this particular Ladurée store, with a tea salon and restaurant in the back.
This is a great place to take a break and try this iconic pastry, away from the busy Parisian streets. For those not familiar, the macaron is made of two delicate meringue almond shells joined together with a creamy ganache filling.
Beyond the macaron, the highlight of this stop was to try the magnificent Ispahan. This creation is from Pierre Hermé, one of the most renowned and celebrated French patissier.
He invented the Ispahan during this tenure at Ladurée. Eventually, he opened his own shop and made the Ispahan a fixture. His innovative and bold flavor combinations led to Vogue Magazine calling him the “Picasso of Pastry.”
The Ispahan is a work of art. Beautiful to look at and exquisite in taste. It is made with fresh raspberries in a macaron like raspberry shell, lychees and rose petal buttercream. Finished with a rose petal on top and a drop of sugar to imitate the dew.
La Maison du Chou: Surprising Store Dedicated to Cream Puffs
I have always been amazed how the French can dedicate their stores to just one craft. Here we’re talking about Cream Puffs or Choux a la Creme. That’s right, a store that sells only Cream Puffs!
Nested in a quiet and charming street in the 6th, La Maison du Chou is a cute and simple store dedicated to Cream Puffs. Created by Manuel Martinez, a MOF, you have the choice to order Cream Puffs that are either chocolate, caramel, praline or the classic, custard.
Wonder what is a MOF? A MOF is a Meilleur Ouvrier de France. It is an award from a craftsmen competition in France held every four years. Similar to the Olympics, the designation is given to the best craftsmen (and women) and it remains unique in the world.
In the subdued decor of La Maison du Chou, we enjoyed our cream puffs with a drink of water before heading to our next stop on the Paris Chocolate Tour.
Pastries at a New Level With Gérard Mulot
Gérard Mulot is recognized as an equally talented pâtissier (pastry-maker) and chocolatier (chocolate-maker). At his famous Left Bank shop on the rue de Seine, you can find delicious macarons, magnificent fruit tarts, buttery pastries, delicious savories, and an impressive selection of baked breads
Unlike some of the other stores we visited on the tour, this is an unpretentious store filled with locals. Seeking something different from macarons and chocolates, Jill steered us to Mulot’s other famous French pastries.
We tried the Financier (small French almond cake), Tartelette au Chocolat (chocolate tart) and Le canelé (small French pastry in the shape of a cylinder filled with soft custard and dark thick caramelized crust).
Getting stuffed with all the sweets and deliciousness, we all braced ourselves for the next stop on the tour.
Pierre Marcolini Crafts Chocolates As Wine Vintages
At Pierre Marcolini, gourmet chocolate is treated like a luxury wine. A passionate Belgian chocolatier, Marcolini redefines how to make chocolate, by treating cacao like a wine grape. Each cacao seed has a specific origin and terroir which produces chocolate with a unique taste and vintage.
The iconic gourmet chocolate is the Raspberry Heart. It is a dark-chocolate ganache with raspberry bits and lemon zest. Rosemary and I are not fans of fruity chocolate, so we turned our attention to the delicious dark chocolate varieties with spices or almond flavors.
With Patrick Roger, Chocolate Is An Art
From the outside, it is difficult to know what to expect from Patrick Roger. The only thing you might notice is this unbelievable large monkey statue sculpted in chocolate. Quite impressive and surreal!
Once you walk inside, you noticed the modern feel of the counters which create a unique visual and geometric effect. This is not a typical chocolate store, but rather an art museum. Chocolate pieces are elevated to works of art, which intrigue and capture the imagination.
The taste of this gourmet chocolate itself is unique. We tried one dark chocolate with jasmine flavor. And another dark chocolate with basil and lime. Distinctive and simply exquisite. Visiting Patrick Roger is a one-of-a-kind experience.
This “down to earth” modern and very large store (for Paris standards) has a restaurant in the back and a preparation room where you can see the pastry chef and students busy at work.
Here, we tried a gluten-free figue desert and the tart meringue citron. Both were light and incredibly delicious.
One of the most surprising discoveries was the billes d’epices au chocolat. These are small little round balls of chocolates made to be eaten with meals. Some flavors are made to be eaten with lamb, beef and even foie gras. Quite an original and tasty concept.
The Paris chocolate tour led by Context Travel took our chocolate experience to a new level, combining art and gastronomy.
If you are looking for a unique experience on your next trip to Paris, consider a Paris chocolate tour and visit the most celebrated chocolatiers in the world.
Eating your way through the seven different stores will prove to be surprisingly “difficult”. Luckily, Jill had warned us in advance and made sure we had only small bites at each store. Be sure to bring water with you as you will need it to rehydrate and clean your palate for each new visit.
If gourmet chocolate is your not your thing, Context Travel also offers tours for wine lovers, cheese lovers and Paris market walks. There is no better way to spend an afternoon learning more about French gastronomy and delicious treats.
And, if after all of this eating you feel inspired to work out, Context Travel also offers a running tour of the city. Bring your runnings shoes and discover the city from a different perspective, while keeping fit!
Special thanks to Context Travel for having us on this Paris chocolate tour. All views and opinions expressed are our own. Full belly and happy taste buds as well.
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Claire is a culinary explorer and the engineer brain behind Authentic Food Quest. Together with her partner, Rosemary, they created Authentic Food Quest to inspire people to travel deeper through authentic food. Through food, they believe, people can have more meaningful connections on their travels. Take the quiz and find out your Food Traveler Profile.