The chocolate makers of Bordeaux
From the precious xocoatl, which the sailing ships used to unload in the port, to the popular Sarments du Médoc (chocolate sticks evoking the shape of vine shoots) born in 1969, the history of the Bordeaux region is intimately linked to that of the most gourmet of ingredients: chocolate. A tradition of luxury and elegance that today’s artisans perpetuate with passion... and make accessible to all!
A little history of chocolate in Bordeaux
Cocoa is a tropical plant native to South America’s rainforests. The Aztecs used it to prepare xocoatl, a sacred drink, as dark and bitter as liquorice, which gave its name to chocolate. When Europeans were acquainted with cocoa, Emperor Charles V, King of Spain, asked nuns to transform it into a sweeter beverage, with added spices and honey.
When Anne of Austria, infanta of Spain, came to marry the King of France Louis XIII, she brought it in her suitcases and travelled through several towns in South West France. Until this day, the towns of Biarritz and Bayonne have kept the tradition. And Bordeaux, where Anne of Austria got married, also embraced this new exotic ingredient. This is how chocolate arrived in Bordeaux and became known in the region.
Bordeaux’s oldest chocolate factory
The Louit chocolate and mustard factory was founded in 1825. It quickly became the most popular brand in the South West of France. At the end of the 19th century, the chocolate industry was already booming. Les Chocolats de Guyenne, initially born in a pharmaceutical drugstore in the Saint-Jean district, opened its first factory in Bordeaux, located Passage Grenier. In 1901, the François pharmacy established its chocolate factory in Talence, though it was later repurchased in 1922.
Chocolate sticks made in the Médoc region.
In 1969, in Margaux, the chocolate factory of the same name began to make chocolate sticks to fill the pains au chocolat (or chocolatines as they are known in the region). But one day, a production line incident occurred, resulting in a series of irregular, twisted, and thin sticks. Reminiscent of the vine shoots pruned in the vineyards, these little sticks became the chocolate speciality of the Médoc region.
Where to drink a hot chocolate in Bordeaux?
Located rue Buffon, the Miremont tea house offers divine hot chocolates. Discover its unique and intoxicating recipe made with milk, of course, but prepared with the same luxury ritual as if you were Anne of Austria.
What are the trendiest chocolates in Bordeaux?
Without a doubt at the Hasnaâ chocolate factory, located Rue de la Vieille Tour. The boutique, initially situated Rue Fondaudège, opened in 2014. Owner and chocolate maker Hasnaâ Ferreira, who trained at Saunion, France’s oldest family-run chocolate factory, notably received the Chocolate Maker of the Year prize in 2017. Her boutique boasts a myriad of stunning creations and fine chocolates that you absolutely must taste before you leave!
Which houses are emblematic of the chocolate tradition?
- The Cadiot-Badie house, born in 1826 as a confectioner’s shop, has specialised in chocolates since 1900 with the Badie sisters. Their workshops are now located in Pessac.
- As for the Darricau house, it was founded in 1915. The brand has remained a family-run business since its creation. It now holds four generations of chocolate heritage secrets.
- The Saunion house, located on Cours Clémenceau, was founded in 1863. They are the only chocolate makers in Bordeaux to have been awarded the Label Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant, which rewards the excellence of traditional know-how. They regularly rank among the best chocolate makers in France at the Salon du Chocolat (Chocolate Fair). If you are wondering where the workshop is when you enter the boutique, it is right above you.
These three houses are, without hesitation, the three most prestigious representatives of the high chocolate tradition of Bordeaux!