On September 24th, the French Institute of Houston organized its first cultural event !
This was the best way to celebrate the opening of our French School in Houston and to get to know better French culture and language. For this special event our friend Samia came from France with several types of chocolate from Bayonne for a private tasting. Delicious !
Chocolate from Bayonne ?
Bayonne is a little town located in the South-western part of France, in an area called « Basque Country » (Pays Basque). Bayonne is a harbor and it’s a very typical Basque town. Therefore, Bayonne is also known as the French Capital of Chocolate since 1609 !
Why ? Let’s go back in time.
French people started to like and eat chocolate after 1615, when Anne d’Autriche married the King and became Queen. Anne d’Autriche was Spanish (which is not easy to tell by her name !) and she loved chocolate, so she brought her favorite treat to the King’s court in Paris.
But in Bayonne, the story begins in 1609 ! Because of Spanish Inquisition, a lot of Jewish people had to flee Spain and Portugal and settled in France and Bayonne. They brought their knowledge of chocolate making and Bayonne’s residents had the chance to taste the wonderful flavor of chocolate before the French King’s court ! This historical fact is the origin of Bayonne’s label : the French capital of chocolate.
Chocolate and cultural differences
Most of the chocolates Samia brought to the French Institute of Houston were dark chocolates with a minimum of 70% of cocoa. As a matter of fact, French people have a sweet tooth and they eat about 7 kilos (15 pounds) of chocolate per year. They are used to eat dark chocolate, which is stronger, less sweet and healthier (this is what we tell ourselves in order to eat chocolate every day !).
What is interesting with chocolate, is that there is a chocolate for everyone. Depending on the origin of the beans that it’s made from, each chocolate has a unique flavor :
- – Cocoa beans from Latin America make a sweet chocolate
- – Cocoa beans from Africa make a stronger chocolate
- – Cocoa beans from Indonesia make a tart chocolate
Each Chocolatier has the opportunity to create his own chocolate by assembling cocoa beans from different countries
The art of Chocolate tasting
During our cultural event at the French Institute of Houston, we tasted 7 chocolates :
- – One dark chocolate made from beans from Sao Tome (an island located in West Africa)
- – Two dark chocolates with an orange and a coffee flavor, made from beans from Equator and Ghana
- – One milk chocolate with sesame seeds
- – One white chocolate with almonds and cranberries
- – One amazing dark chocolate with 97% of cocoa (for the braves !)
- – One dark chocolate with Espelette chili. Espelette chili is a very typical ingredient in Basque cuisine. Espelette is the name of the village where the chili is produced.
Chocolate tasting at home
Chocolate tasting is similar to the art of wine tasting. There are rituals to follow. If you are willing to organize a chocolate tasting at your house, here are some suggestions:
- In order to appreciate the flavors of all the chocolates, you should start with the least strong and end with the strongest : for instance, start with a white chocolate, then milk chocolate and taste the dark chocolate at the end.
- If you only taste dark chocolates, follow the percentage of cocoa (from the least strong to the strongest) because the higher the percentage of cocoa, the more bitter the chocolate. Let’s imagine what 97% of cocoa would taste like !
- Keep a little glass of water (no ice) with you and have a sip of water between each chocolate.
- When you taste a piece of chocolate, crunch it gently and let it melt on your tongue. This way you will feel all the flavors and they will stay longer.
Are you hungry now?
As a conclusion, we would like to thank all the participants we shared the chocolate tasting with. Thanks to all of you, the first cultural event at the French Institute of Houston was a success !
Thank you again Samia for your expertise and your kindness!
We are looking forward to meet new French lovers at the next event of our French School !
Syndicat du chocolat : http://www.syndicatduchocolat.fr/le-chocolat/chocolat-consommation/
Carte : http://julsdudu64.free.fr/lepaysbasque/presentation.php
Piment d’Espelette : http://bipertegia.com/cordes-de-piments-espelette/13-corde-de-piments-espelette-frais-aop.html