Sulpice Debauve, a former royal chemist under King Louis XVI and a personal chocolatier to King Charles X, opened a chocolate shop on rue Saint-Dominique, in Saint-German-des-Prés, in 1800.
In 1818, Debauve’s main shop was moved to its present location on rue des Saints-Pères (7th arr.), where Sulpice Debauve formed a partnership with his nephew, August Gallais, also a chemist. Together they produced and sold “health chocolates,” made with almond milk, vanilla and orange-blossom water.
At the time, chocolate was used to make bitter medicines more palatable. It was also combined with “healthful” ingredients to promote vigour and health.
The early 1800s saw the closure of many chocolate shops in the French capital, as a result of the Continental Blockade put in place by Napoleon and sharp rise in prices that followed.
Debauve & Gallais, however, prospered. At its height, the company had a “chain” of 65 boutiques throughout France.
With industrialisation, the 19th century saw the rapid expansion of large-scale chocolate production in France and other European countries. In France, companies like Suchard, Menier and Poulain set up factories for the processing and transformation of cacao beans into chocolate products.
Powdered chocolate was invented in 1828, and milk chocolate in 1875. And by the 20th century, chocolate was being mass-produced in all its forms, notably in France, Switzerland and Belgium.
In Paris, the modern trend towards high-end “designer” chocolate began to emerge in the second half of the 20th century, with many of today’s most famous names in the world of chocolate opening their first boutiques in the 1970s and 1980s.
It’s no wonder that Paris is host to the original Salon du Chocolat, an annual five-day chocolate festival that brings together master chocolatiers and chocolate enthusiasts from around the world for a taste of chocolate heaven.
Today, Paris is known as much for its celebrity chocolatiers and pâtissiers as for its fashion designers.
But while the price of haute-couture garments may be out of reach of most, anyone who comes to Paris can more than likely afford the simple, if ephemeral, pleasure of a signature chocolate bonbon, pastry or glace au chocolat.
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