Most likely you have heard of the film Chocolat which is experiencing a certain amount of success in our cinemas this season. Juliette Binoche was an Oscar nominee for best actress for the leading role which she plays.
As it happens, this film is having more success abroad than in France. It's filmed in English, and, if the action is situated in France, the French have a hard time identifying the characters as being genuinely from their country.
However, it's true that chocolate benefits from a great reputation in France. It's a product which is greatly appreciated. True connoisseurs know very well how to differentiate among the various qualities of the product.
Historically, it's admittedly Anne of Austria, wife of Louis XIII, who introduced chocolate to the French court in the 17th century, after the discovery of America and the Mayan and Aztec populations by the Spanish. For the Mayans and the Aztecs, cocoa beans were very precious products but were consumed unrefined. Since then, they have learned how to cultivate them.
In Lyon, a chocolate maker named Bernachon became famous twenty years ago. Since then, his reputation has never failed. The manufacturing company employs an active team. Noël Sève is the master chocolatier.
All said and done, between the shop and the confectionery, we come to fifty.
The Berchanon house particularly owes its reputation to the choice of cocoa beans it uses. Without a doubt the best quality comes from South America.
I tell you, it's Venezuela. Ah, yes, everything that comes from Venezuela, that touches Venezuela. Therefore, I tell you, it's a question of origin; it's a question of territory. It's bitter, it has flavor. That's it, it has flavor. Something that you won't find in the big stores, for example, whose chocolates are made from cocoa beans from the Côte d'Ivoire, ones like that. It's a reputation which sets itself apart. It's a unique taste, it's out the ordinary and therefore, people seek it out.
This high level of quality stays within the artisans' circle.
It's the small regions, such as Chuao, there's not a lot, so the manufacturers cannot get away with buying these beans because they don't have enough of them. The manufacturers, they prefer the cocoa beans from the Côte d'Ivoire which are very neutral and don't have any taste, so to speak, and it's for that reason that we work with cocoa beans which have an unprecedented reputation.
For sure, the road is long but we're getting there.
And as far as the cocoa beans, we have a buyer who handles the beans because we're not going to go to South America every time, so it's handled by a buyer, and the beans arrive in Bordeaux. The buyer is in Bordeaux and is from Bordeaux. They have delivered to us... they have... they bring us the beans via a carrier who is on the outskirts of Lyon, and who comes in a small freight-forwarding truck to make the delivery. We receive deliveries about three times a year.
The cocoa beans are treated in several stages in order to produce the chocolaty substance that Noël calls the couverture; that is, the base for making different types of chocolates.
The cocoa beans are sifted in order to remove all the impurities, to remove the shells which are... which are broken, for example.
After the sifting comes the roasting. So, the roasting, it's very... it's roasted at about 160-170 degrees (320-338 F), for about 20 to 25 minutes because each type of bean is not the same size. Therefore, you can't say, "It will take so many minutes to roast this one, so many minutes to roast that one..." because it's never the same. There are big ones, small ones...
We do several types of couvertures. We raise the percentages of cocoa because the normal couverture, the one which is used the most, consists of 55% cocoa beans, 45% sugar, all right? After, we make a bitter couverture... a bitter couverture, so, we raise the amount of cocoa beans. The bitter couverture will be made of 65% beans and 35% sugar. Afterwards, we make a really bitter couverture, made of 75% beans. It's that one which has the most... which contains the most cocoa beans.
We're making an orange-flavored couverture. We add to it, therefore, oranges, which we ourselves have crystallized and after have dried, of course. We grind them in with the couverture.
We also do some more exotic combinations:
...spiced with cinnamon, for example. It's a spice, cinnamon.
Noël, not having seen the film Chocolat, which peaked our curiosity, was asked if the virtues of spiced chocolate, which are addressed in the film, are true in his opinion.
...aphrodisiac, yes, that's true, that's true... however, you'd have to eat quite a lot of it.
$Id: 2001_03_cul.htm 4 2010-02-03 20:03:32Z alistair $