From the small French town of Voiron, near Grenoble, comes some of the best chocolate in the world. No less than the New York Times has called Chocolat Bonnat, “The best chocolate we had ever eaten.”
Why is it so good? To begin with, Chocolat Bonnat has had a long time to master its craft. Founded in 1884 by Félix Bonnat, the company quickly earned a reputation for the high quality of its chunky pralines and smooth pavés. It was handed down from one generation to the next and today Félix’s great-great grandson Stéphane Bonnat runs the company.
Like those before him, Stéphane is a master chocolatier, and one of the few in France who still roasts his own beans to make sure they meet his exacting standards. Not only that, he spends nearly half his time traveling the world to find the rarest and most delicious cocoa beans, often in remote locations. Here’s a video (in French) of him hunting for cocoa plants in the jungles of Peru and then talking about how he makes chocolate.
Chocolat Bonnat has won heaps of international awards and is perhaps best known for its Grand Cru chocolates. In 1984, Stéphane’s father Raymond came up with a brilliant idea to celebrate the company’s centennial: Why not, he thought, make bars using chocolate that comes from just one place? That way, customers could taste the differences between chocolate from Madagascar and Venezuela and many other places.
No one had ever thought to do this and these “single origin” bars were a huge hit. Chocolate makers around the world have since copied the idea but Chocolat Bonnat was the first, and maybe still the best.
Bonnat chocolates are available in over 50 countries, so you can try them yourself. If your local shop doesn’t have them you can look online at places like Amazon and Chocosphere.
Go ahead! Taste a Bonnat chocolate and find out why the food write David Lebovitz said, “There was an explosion of flavor like I’d never experienced before.”
Keith Van Sickle splits his time between Silicon Valley and Provence. He is the author of One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence; Read more at Life in Provence.
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