Here 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc, we live on the border with 🇨🇭 Switzerland, one of the most famous chocolate producing nations in the world! Those 🐄 happy alpine cows produce 🥛 a rich creamy milk, perfect to mix with cacao, to form delicious chocolate . . .
But here 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc, we also have a rich tradition of artisan chocolate-making, which dates back to the 19th century!
And, as you’ll see in this article, we also have some exquisite chocolate makers 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc today!
Chocolaterie Pissard (Sallanches)
Did you know that the oldest chocolate brand of Savoie – Pissard – had a factory located in Sallanches? The first Pissard factory was founded in 1827-1828, near Bellegarde, by the Pissard brothers. The older brother, nicknamed Bilbao, had learned the trade in the town of the same name in northern Spain. This first factory was flooded and partly buried by river sediment . . . and so it moved to Sallanches!
The Sallanches factory was located by 💦 the river Sallanche, where a moulin provided the hydraulic force. The cocao beans were imported from Brazil and English African colonies, via Bordeaux.
When Savoie was annexed to France in 1860, the Sallanches factory was suddenly confronted by 🇨🇭 Swiss competition, and exports towards the Swiss cantons and Piedmont became more difficult, discouraged by customs. In addition, 🚂 the railway line in France had not yet arrived in Sallanches. Despite these challenges, Pissard remained strong, and with the arrival of 🚂 the railway in 1898, the chocolate products could be exported more easily throughout 🇫🇷 France. Before WWI, the factory employed around 30 employees and 10 tons of chocolate were produced annually!
The 1950s, however, saw a decline in fortunes, as Pissard could no longer compete against the big international chocolate brands, and its doors were shut.
[ bibliography – La Pissarderie blogspot ]
A couple of years ago at 📚 the Médiathèque Ange Abrate de Sallanches, there was an exhibition about La Chocolaterie Pissard, organised by the Guides du Patrimoine Savoie Mont Blanc and group « Sallanches histoire et patrimoine » :
And now, fast forward to 2020, since the shutting of the Pissard factory more than half of a century ago, here are some of our 🍫 local artisan chocolate makers worth knowing about!
Colour code for listings:
Chamonix Valley (Chamonix, Argentière, Les Houches, Servoz and environs) & Vallorcine
Passy & environs
Sallanches, Combloux, Cordon & Domancy
Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, Le Fayet, Saint Nicolas de Véroce, Bionnassay & environs
Megève, Praz-sur-Arly & environs
Les Contamines & environs
🇫🇷 Further France 🇫🇷
La Chocolatier Ancey / Aux Nougats du Mont-Blanc (Chamonix centre)
The 🍫 La Chocolaterie Ancey (Aux Nougats du Mont-Blanc) is a veritable institution in Chamonix! Known originally as the « Maison de Nougat » back in 1821, it was taken over by the Ancey family in 1892. You are still welcomed by the Ancey family into their little world of chocolats, nougats, macaroons, candied fruit, honeys and jams . . . / FB page;
address: 60 rue Joseph Vallot, 74400, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc / tel: 04 50 53 09 79;
Pâtisserie Richard Chamonix (Chamonix centre)
The 🧁 Pâtisserie Richard was always my favourite boulangerie for bread and viennoiserie when I lived down the road in Chamonix, but I rarely indulged in its incredible selection of cakes and chocolates back then – why ever not?! / FB page and website;
address: 10 rue du Docteur Paccard, 74400, Chamonix / tel: 04 50 53 56 88;
Aux Petits Gourmands & Chalet 4810 pépites et gourmandises (Chamonix centre)
🧁 Aux Petits Gourmands (FB page) & Chalet 4810 (FB page) have the most incredible selection of beautiful cakes and chocolates! The chocolates are exquisite, with some designed liked mountains and snowflakes! They’ll also design for your company! You’ll find a newer branch of 🧁 Aux Petits Gourmands opposite the church in Saint-Gervais – what a beautiful location! (on a warm day, you can eat your cake in the church gardens!).
Qosmiq Chocolate (Chamonix)
Qosmiq Chocolate is a new independent brand available in Chamonix: ” Bean to bar chocolate maker based in Chamonix. Using ethically sourced, single origin cocoa to make simple and delicious bars of chocolate. ” / FB page;
Some of you Chamonix residents may remember the noisy bar Le Choucas (I do; it was located right under my rented Chamonix studio, so on a summer’s night, the noise from here (and Le Pub) travelled right up to my bed!).
Well, the Le Choucas chalet will soon be home to Le Shoukâ (opening 2021): ” une manufacture de cacao et de café qui ouvrira ses portes au 1er trimestre 2021 “. In this article on the blog, Le Shoukâ tells you why eating (good quality) chocolate (in moderation) is good for your health! / FB page and website;
address: 206 rue du Dr Paccard, 74400, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc;
Les Gourmandises de Manon (Chedde)
address: 8 rue Paul Corbin, 74190, Passy / tel: 07 60 65 22 26;
Sallanches, Saint-Gervais & Le Fayet
Chocolats de Neuville (Sallanches)
Chocolats de Neuville is a not a local brand, though it is a French brand, and it has a small shop next to Monoprix in Sallanches . . . and this shop very kindly offered parents of my boys’ school some chocolates for Christmas (through the Amicale – merci!).
address: 9 avenue de la Gare, 74700, Sallanches;
Chocola’thé is a cake and chocolate shop, within a tea room, located on the quais of Sallanches. They’ll also design a cake for you! / FB page;
address: 38 quai Saint Jacques 74700 Sallanches / tel: 04 50 55 83 68;
Délicat Délice (Sallanches)
🍫 Délicat Délice is also located on the quais, and has beautiful cakes and chocolate, and tea and coffee for sale. There is also a branch in La Roche-sur-Foron / FB page;
Lydie’s cake (Sallanches)
Lydie is known for her cupcakes and custom-made cakes, and she also produces chocolate! Located next to the Le repère des z’héros (organic and no package shopping) you can combine a visit! / FB page;
address: 151 rue du Mont-Blanc, 74700, Sallanches / tel: 07 85 12 87 90;
Zanin Pâtissier & Chocolatier (Sallanches, Saint-Gervais & Cluses)
Zanin is another institution locally, selling beautiful cakes, chocolates and macaroons. The first branch to open was in Le Fayet and there are newer shops in Sallanches and Cluses / FB page and website;
address (Sallanches): 540 rue du Général Jacques de Montfort, 74700, Sallanches;
address (Le Fayet): La Potinière, 111 avenue de Chamonix, 74170, Le Fayet;
Les Glaçons de Megève®
Les Glaçons de Megève® are delicate praline meringues, and they are a speciality of Megève – for the last 112 years, they have been made there, based on the recipe of Barthélémy Vigliengo! / more information;
address: 215 route Edmond de Rothschild, 74120, Megève / tel: 06 01 73 88 99;
Le Comptoir du Père Sotieu (Megève)
address: 19 rue Général Muffat de St Amour, 74120, Megève / tel: 04 50 21 67 51;
Les Flocons de Neige (Megève)
Another speciality of Megève: « Le Flocon de Neige » – praline covered in meringue. This little boutique sits on a corner;
address: 133 rue Monseigneur Conseil, 74120 Megève / tel: 04 50 21 20 10;
La Boutique aux Chocolats (Megève)
La Boutique aux Chocolats in Megève is run by Caroline Vouillon and François Legon, and has been producing exquisite artisan chocolates since 1963! I have been given some of these chocolates as a gift and they are delicious, some with gold paint! / website;
address: 176 rue Charles Feige, 74120, Megève;
tel: +33 (0)4 50 21 01 64 / email: email@example.com;
Artisan du Chocolat Verchaix
address: 30 rue du Giffre 74440 Verchaix, France / tel: 04 50 91 23 32;
Sébastien Colombel Artisan Chocolatier (Mieussy)
tel: 06 16 89 80 40 / email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
More chocolate facts
A history of chocolate:
- 🧉 history of chocolate (Mexico) – the Aztecs believed that cacao seeds were the gift of Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom, and the seeds were even used as currency! Originally, the Aztecs prepared their cacao 🧉 as a bitter drink, mixed with spices, chilli and corn purée; it was believed to be an aphrodisiac. The word chocolate in fact is believed to come from the classical Nahuatl word Xocolātl, and entered the English language via the Spanish language;
history of chocolate video for kids:
- ☕️ history of chocolate (Spanish Empire) – until the 16th century, the cacao tree was unknown to Europeans. Christopher Columbus and later conquistadores encountered the cacao bean on their voyages to the Americas, and they witnessed how locals revered this food. Cocoa beans were first brought over to Europe by Christopher Columbus, and then later, Hernán Cortés, who gave samples of cacao to King Felipe II in 1528. Spanish friars began to sweeten the cocoa drink, hence changing its taste and making it more palatable. This chocolate drink became popular with monarchies throughout Europe and the bean was hence imported;
- ☕️ history of chocolate (Europe) – initially a reserve of the ruling classes, the chocolate drink became popular over the next centuries amongst the ruled classes. With this popularity, brought a cacao bean plantation slave market between the early 17th and late 19th centuries, as the laborious and slow processing of the cacao bean was manual; cacao plantations were planted by the English, Dutch, and French in their vast colonies. The first mechanical cocoa grinder was invented in Bristol, England in 1729 by Walter Churchman;
- history of chocolate (modern era chocolate bars) – new processes speeding up chocolate production emerged during the Industrial Revolution, but the real innovation came with Dutch chemist Coenraad van Houten in 1815, who first added alkaline salts to chocolate to reduce the bitterness, and then created a press to remove half of the natural fat (cacao butter) from the chocolate liquor, and leaving a powder. This was to make chocolate cheaper to produce and also more consistent in quality. Machine-pressed chocolate, which was known as Dutch cocoa, was pivotal in the transformation of chocolate to its solid form (rather than being simply a drink). In 1847, Joseph Fry learned how to mould chocolate, by mixing back in melted cacao butter. Milk powder was later added, and the texture of chocolate was further finessed by chocolatiers across the world: Nestlé, Lindt & Sprüngli AG, Cadbury, Hershey, to name a few . . . In the 20th century, chocolate was considered as an essential element in the rations of US soldiers during WWII;
cacao and chocolate timelines:
➡️ cocoa bean production – here is a chart showing the top cocoa producing countries in the world . . . / more information here;
➡️ European chocolate production – you might be surprised by this data?
Belgian v Swiss chocolate – both 🇧🇪 Belgian and 🇨🇭 Swiss chocolate are globally renowned. But what are the big differences? Belgian chocolate will typically have a higher cocoa content, while Swiss chocolate tends to be creamier and smoother on the palette / more information;