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What Is It With French Chocolate

The 19th century French writer, Brillat-Savarin said, "Chocolate is health". Brillat-Savarin, had a passion for chocolate similar to Voltaire who drank 12 cups a day! He suggested it be used for anything from lethargy to hangovers long before the medicinal benefits were confirmed by the scientific community. The cocoa bean is native to Central and South America and wasn't known to Europeans until the 1500's when Spanish explorer, Hernando Cortez brought it back with him from the Americas.

In the early 1600's chocolate was brought to the city of Bayonne in Southwest France by Jewish immigrants who had been driven from Spain. Not long after that Spanish chocolate was introduced to the French Nobility by the 14 year old Spanish princess who was to wed Louis XIV. The French have been known for being experts in making chocolate ever since and their chocolate is the most sought after in the world. Chocolate making techniques today are the best they have ever been and the master recipe of blending the regular Forastero bean with the fine quality Criollo bean is known to all chocolate connoisseurs.

However, many European chocolate makers are concerned that the quality of chocolate in Europe will be harmed due to new Common Market regulations that are now authorizing chocolate makers to use vegetable fat in chocolate. This is currently banned in France, which is why they have the finest chocolates. The French are very strict legislators of all matters pertaining to food and cooking and chocolate is no exception.

Their laws strictly prohibit the use of any vegetable or animal fat in the making of French chocolate, only allowing pure cocoa butter. Additionally they require that French chocolate be at least 43% cocoa liquor and a minimum of 26% pure cocoa butter. Most proud French chocolate makers exceed the cocoa liquor requirement; indeed the better quality bonbons contain as much as 80% of the dark substance which gives chocolate its taste.

Knowing this, it is no surprise that French chocolates have the best flavor. The flavor nuances of French chocolate also depend on the quality and origin of the cocoa beans used to make it. The best chocolates are an artful blend of four or more different beans, each with its own flavor, force and persistence -- each from a different geographical origin: Venezuela, Brazil, the Ivory Coast, Madagascar. French consumers rank among the world's most discriminating when it comes to chocolate.

Parisians are particularly picky, and for good reason: What other metropolis offers such an impressive array of chocolate marvels from the world's most delicate and costly bonbons, to the most mouth-watering chocolate cakes and tarts imaginable? .

By: Gregg Hall

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