As with so many French delicacies, the national passion for chocolate originated with the aristocracy. In 1615, Anne of Austria, the intended wife of King Louis XIII, made a gift of chocolate to her future husband, who fell immediately for this exotic and aromatic product of the New World. Chocolate drinking became fashionable at the court in Versailles, where the kings drafted various chocolatiers to prepare the cocoa bean paste with water or milk and with various spices and seasonings as a special treat. King Louis XV had a particular love for this drink, and the custom spread from the royal court to the French bourgeoisie.
Chocolate became a more broadly available luxury in France during the 19th century, when the Menier company was founded — now owned by Nestlé — and today, the average Frenchperson consumes around 15 pounds of chocolate a year.
A visit to any really good Paris chocolate shop can be a real education, since French chocolate culture mimics the country’s connoisseurship of wine. You’ll be told the provenance of the beans from which the chocolate was made — different cocoa beans from different countries render very different chocolates — given small tastings and generally tutored in what makes an excellent chocolate and why. Here is a selection of our favorite Paris chocolate shops.