Amateurs of fine chocolate be warned: if you have not yet had the delight of discovering “Debauve & Gallais” – chocolate makers to the kings of France -the best is yet to come!
This illustrious master chocolatier was founded in 1800 by Sulpice Debauve, pharmacist to King Louis XVI and fervent believer that science should be used to relieve humanity of its suffering. At that time, the young Marie Antoinette took bitter-tasting medicinal powders. Convinced of the therapeutic virtues of chocolate (virtues that have since been proven) Sulpice was a pioneer in the chemical analysis of cacao. He developed a process for producing the first ever form of solid chocolate that one could bite into. The young queen loved the “pistoles” (round discs of chocolate) he created for her, they became a permanent feature of his production and one that can still be sampled today.
In 1829 Sulpice was joined by his nephew Jean-Baptiste Gallais (discoverer of lactoline and inventor of the process for freeze-drying milk). Together they researched and produced new flavours and forms of chocolate. Their creations were extolled by the medical profession of the day and by some very illustrious amateurs : Napoléon 1er (for whom they created the first ever chocolate-coated dried fruits and nuts), Louis XVIII, Charles X, Napoléon III…
Throughout the last two centuries Debauve & Gallais’ clientele has included numerous celebrities, many of whom have had chocolates specifically created for them, Marcel Proust ( a ganache-filled chocolate madeleine) Coco Chanel (la Boule d’Antan), and more recently Sonia Rykiel to name but a few.
Debauve and Gallais set up their first shop in the seventh arrondissement in 1817. The building was designed by the royal architects Percier and Fontaine. The last of their designs still in existence, it is now one of Paris’ historical listed buildings. It is designed like a pharmacy of the time, with a central counter in the form of a semicircle and numerous drawers, cabinets and shelves presenting the beautifully packaged creations.
The Debauve & Galllais expertise has been handed down from one generation to the next and today it is Bernard Poussin, ninth descendant of Debauve who runs the establishment which has since taken on an international dimension.
As with perfume, it takes a “nose” to determine the subtle combinations and doses of flavours that make up a fine chocolate. Diane Junique, Directrice Générale, currently has that role and it is she who determines the brand’s new creations. There are over two thousand recipes and two hundred and fifty different chocolates available, many of which are still based on the original recipes and none of which include artificial additives.
It is this purity of the chocolate that gives it its delicious taste and texture. In keeping with their mission to produce a chocolate that is good for the health, Debauve & Gallais have never used industrial sugar in their preparations, and their chocolate is very low in natural sugar content. Yet even their darkest chocolate at 99% cacao leaves no bitter residue or aftertaste.
To discover this “haut-couturier” of chocolate there are two shops in Paris, in the 7th and 2nd arrondissements. You can also visit the online store at www.debauve-et-gallais.fr
Editor’s personal favourite: The chocolate-coated ginger – SUBLIME!