A Sweet Break in Paris: The Gourmet Chocolate Museum Choco-story

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Tree Hugger: Because no other tree brings so much joy to my life.

Paris: the city of love, and all things decadent. A person could spend all day gazing at antiquity at the Louvre (or getting left there), shopping at designer boutiques, or gawking at window displays of towering macaroons. But one thing you shouldn’t miss is another decadent experience, one that you and your spouse won’t fight about: Chocolate.

The Gourmet Chocolate Museum in Paris otherwise known as the Choco-story Museum should be on every tourist’s list. It was on 1000 Fights and we are glad we took the time to go there. Sometimes you can feel a little museumed-out in Paris. There is a museum for everything. But take heed. No other museum will leave you wanting to hug a Cacao tree or tasting the best hot chocolate tasting in the world.

The Choco-story: Gourmet Chocolate Museum is relatively new on the museum scene; it opened in 2010.  But that doesn’t mean that it’s any less impressive than some of the century old cousins.

We rode the metro to Bonne Nouvelle and walked a few steps. It was clear this wasn’t a major tourist area. The street leading up the museum was lined with food trucks, with crepes, ice cream, and other delightful sweets at half the price of the area around the Louvre and Eiffel Tower. The visit was starting off right! But I only had one thing in mind: chocolate.

Just one of hundreds of examples of antiquity surrounding chocolate. This particular relic has a cacao bean front and center.

Just one of hundreds of examples of antiquity surrounding chocolate. This particular relic has a cacao bean front and center. Perhaps for fertility?

The entrance price to get into the museum is 9 Euros and 3 Euros for hot chocolate at the end of the tour. I thought the price of the hot chocolate was a little high, but after having it, I would have gladly paid double.

As we entered, I tried not to get distracted as a wall of chocolate at the gift shop beckoned me to taste. But I kept trekking. The first floor of the museum is dedicated to the history of cacao and chocolate. It begins with the basic beginning of chocolate; the cacao bean and how long it’s been worshiped, literally.

Chocolate isn’t older than dirt, but close. Visitors are able to transport themselves back in time and walk through 4000 years of history from the Mayans to the Aztecs to Columbus. No Paris museum would be complete without historical artifacts and the Chocolate Museum is no different. I was surprised the extent of the collection of Mayan and Aztec relics. It painted a picture of how much the cacao influenced the culture. There was even a section on the cacao bean used as currency and as an offering to the God Quetzalcoatl.

Rabbit anyone? It will cost you 10 cacao beans. Aztecs used cacao beans as cash. It was that valuable!

Rabbit anyone? It will cost you 10 cacao beans. Aztecs used cacao beans as cash. It was that valuable!

The second floor of the museum is more modern: the last 500 years, essentially beginning with Columbus’ first taste of the drink Tchocatl (he didn’t like it) to modern Europe. There are cases full of chocolate cups/mugs and chocolate services. You can tell a chocolate cup versus a tea cup because the mouth of the cup is much larger. A chocolate pot will have an opening in the top to froth. There is also a delightful section of antique chocolate boxes.

I discovered to my delight, that a ceramic figurine of a woman I inherited is really a chocolate box from the early 1900s. Chocolate boxes used to be quite ornate and are now collectible After oohing and awing over the chocolate services vs. tea services, we headed downstairs to the basement.

Note the openings for the wooden frothers.

Note the openings on the top of the pot for the wooden frothers.

Just some of the many antique chocolate boxes on display.

Examples of the many antique chocolate boxes on display.

The basement of the museum is dedicated modern chocolate. There are fun games for kids to play.  One of my faves was a computer adapted test to show you which kind of chocolate you like the most and why. I like white (it’s the fat of the cocoa bean) and milk (more sugar). But the best way to end the tour is with a demonstration on how modern chocolate is made. The museum uses commercial grade chocolate from Belgium for its samples and gift shop called Belcolade. It’s worth an airline ticket just to taste it. It’s the second largest chocolate producer in Belgium and they use 100 percent cocoa butter. When

you taste the chocolate, you can tell it’s the real deal.

During the demonstration, a docent shows how a praline filled chocolate is made. The docent had Belcolade chocolate made and then showed how commercial molds and machines help set the chocolate. The sample was amazing, but not as amazing as the hot chocolate. As we exited, we got to choose from six types of chocolate including Aztec, Spanish, speculoos (gingerbread), hazelnut, milk and dark. The hot chocolate isn’t powdered, prepackaged, grossness. It’s a literal chunk of chocolate on a stick that is set in the steaming hot milk to melt and enjoy. When the Chocolate Museum says hot chocolate, they literally mean hot chocolate.

The tour took about two and half hours. You could do the museum in less than hour, but it wouldn’t take more than three. Unlike some museums where I felt tired and overloaded, I left the Chocolate Museum on a sugar high and ready for some more adventure. With all that Paris has to offer, it’s a sweet break not to be missed.

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