Chocolate tasting in the Basque country
Posted on February 4, 2013
Although the Basque Country has a strong history in chocolate-making, there are today very few artisan chocolatiers of Basque origin, let alone chocolatiers who make their own chocolate, from bean-to-bar.
A century ago, nearly every chocolate craftsman would have made chocolate from scratch, sourcing the beans, roasting them, and grinding them into a chocolate mass.
It is amazing to think that today, the majority of chocolatiers no longer make their own chocolate but buy it from big international manufacturers who source and transform the beans into chocolate couverture. The quality of the chocolate will vary according to the manufacturer’s blending techniques and the types of cocoa beans chosen.
As I walk through Bayonne’s historical centre, I remember reading how in 1870 Bayonne was home to 130 chocolatiers. Today, only three remain. The rue Port Neuf is home to the boutiques of Cazenave, Paries, and Daranatz. Each offers their own special range of chocolate recipes.
Cazenave, founded in 1854, is one of the oldest surviving Basque chocolate businesses. It is famous for its traditional frothy hot chocolate, “chocolat mousseux”. Cazenave still uses the old-style roasting and conching machines to make a limited range of “chocolat à l’ancienne”, sourcing small batches of beans from Venezuela, Costa Rica and Trinidad.
Visiting Cazenave’s chocolate-making workshop, I am fascinated to see one of the earliest French-made conching machines in full action.
At Pariès, founded in 1895, you will find chocolates made with Piment d’Espelette, the famous spicy red pepper grown in the area of Espelette. Pariès is also renowned for its macarons, made following a recipe created exclusively for Louis XIV’s wedding in St Jean de Luz.
Nearby in the same street is Daranatz Chocolatier, founded in 1890. Their cocoa powder is excellent, and makes a great home-made hot chocolate drink for these long winter evenings.
If you have time, visit each of these stores to do your own chocolate tasting, and then visit Christophe Puyodebat’s chocolate museum in Cambo-les-Bains to get a full view of the Basque chocolate heritage!