most visitors to Paris, the word "museum" is a synonym for "Louvre", "Centre
Pompidou," or "Musée d'Orsay." But there are many small museums in Paris that
also deserve a tourist's attention, such as le musée des Égouts de Paris
(Paris Sewers Museum) and--more
appetizingly--Choco-Story, also known as le musée gourmand du Chocolat or the Gourmet Chocolate Museum.
Paris is the third in a series of private chocolate museums operated by the Van
Belle family of Erembodegem, Belgium, who launched a Bruges museum in 2004 and a
Prague branch in 2008.
The Paris version of Choco-Story opened in 2010 and is
sponsored by Belcolade, the
second-largest Belgian manufacturer of chocolates for the professional market.
(Belcolade's products are widely used by French chocolatiers, bakers, and pastry
Choco-Story occupies three floors of a building on the
Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle, one of the Grands Boulevards in central
Paris. It's made up of three sections:
The first section traces the history of cocoa (going back to
the Mayan and Aztec eras). It also introduces the cocoa tree and the
fundamental principles of chocolate-making.
The second section covers the development of chocolate in
Europe, from the importation of the first cacao beans into Spain in
1527 to the industrialization of chocolate-making in the 19th and 20th
Centuries. Exhibits range from antique chocolate cups to modern machinery.
The third part of the museum features temporary
exhibitions and a Demonstration Center where visitors can watch chocolates
being made, with fresh samples to eat and enjoy.
museum has a collection of more than 1,000 objects, many of them chosen
personally by Eddy Van Belle, the patriarch of the Van Belle chocolate-making
clan. Choco-Story also sponsors the international Cocoa Development Fund,
which supports cocoa farmers and chocolate cooperatives in developing countries.
is open daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. (last entrance at 5 p.m.)
The price of
admission isn't cheap, but it does include a chocolate sample, and you can
easily spend a couple of hours in the museum--or longer, if (like us) you can't resist
buying a cup of hot chocolate in the gift shop and bookstore.
For detailed information, including ticket prices and how to
reach Choco-Story, visit the museum's Web site at
More museum photos:
Choco-Story is at 28 Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle in the 10th
Arrondissement, just a few meters from the Bonne Nouvelle station on Métro lines
8 and 9.
Our visit to the museum began with an introduction to the
cacao tree and cocoa beans.
Dioramas and other displays introduced us to the history
of chocolate, which goes back at least 4,000 years. In this diorama, a Mayan
priest was offering cocoa beans to the gods.
The gods apparently devoured cocoa beans whole. Mayan and
Aztec people, on the other hand, crushed the beans into a paste that was mixed
with water, chili peppers, and spices to create a bitter drink.
Labels at Choco-Story are in French and English. (The
label above shows how the Aztecs used cocoa beans as currency.)
This display shows a stone metate and mano,
which were used to crush cocoa beans in ancient Mexico.
The metate is still employed by traditional
Mexican cooks for grinding corn and other grains.
After learning about the early history of chocolate, we
went upstairs to see exhibits about the cocoa bean's introduction and cultural
role in Europe from the 16th Century onward.
The display case above shows vintage bonbonnières
for storing and displaying chocolate.
Half-dolls (produced mostly in the early 20th Century)
were used as tea cozies, tops of powder boxes, etc. These half-dolls were cozies
for cups or small pitchers of hot chocolate.
In more modern times,
Playmobil has paid homage to chocolate.
Another section of Choco-Story's European exhibit shows
chocolate packaging and brands, such as Banania
(a popular French breakfasrt chocolate).
We enjoyed leafing through a display of information about
chocolate brands (some familiar, some less so), including Banania and France's
celebrated Poulain line of dessert
and baking chocolates.
We also admired the displays of antique implements,
traditional metal molds, and machinery used by confectioners and the chocolate
After spending an hour and a half or so wandering through
the museum, we went down to the basement, where Cheryl posed with
mascot) while waiting for the
chocolate demonstration to begin in the kitchen next door.
Choco-Story presents demonstrations with tastings every 20
minutes, all day long.
Outside the demonstration room at Choco-Story, a diploma
showed that Eddy Van Belle (the museum's founder) was a member of the
Confrerie des Chocolatiers de France.
We entered the demonstration room and sat in an
amphiteatre-like row of seats (left) facing the modern chocolatier's
A surprisingly svelte chocolatier demonstrated the use of
silicone molds with a machine that melted chocolate.
He used the molds to create pralines in the form of Choclala,
the museum's cartoon mascot.
After the short demonstration, samples were passed around
The friendly chocolatier took time to answer questions
As we left the museum, we couldn't resist buying a cup of
hot chocolate in the well-equipped gift shop and bookstore.
We chose dark
chocolate, which was given to us as a block on a large toothpick for dipping and
dissolving in a cup of hot milk.