Bayonne, France & Chocolate Making



Bayonne is renowned for its hot chocolate (originally flavored with cinnamon) and its dark and bitter chocolate. It is a little-known fact that Bayonne (in the Basque region, southwest corner of France, near the border to Spain) was the first chocolate-making city in France . Documented as early as 1609, Jewish immigrants settled there, bringing their chocolate making expertise, (although now said to actually have come in the mid 1500's) after first escaping the 1496 Spanish Inquisition by fleeing to Portugal, and then eventually being forced out of Portugal as well, coming to the Basque region of France. This is the interesting twist on how chocolate making entered France for the first time. In the 18th C. a Chocolate Maker's Guild was formed but it excluded the Jewish chocolate makers. The businesses are family owned and run - men in the factory, and women in the shops. 2 chocolate factories and 5 pastrycook-chocolate sellers exist today.


In their very pretty boutique on rue du Port-Neuf , Cazenave (1854) offers a variety of chocolate bars and makes frothed Chocolat Moussuex (above), the specialite de la maison - not to be missed.

(photos above, right, below)

Cazenave is the only place in Bayonne that still works directly with cacao in its raw form, buying beans imported from Venezuela , Costa Rica , and Trinidad by Bordeaux 's Maison Touton, roasting them in a laboratory, and then crushing them into powder with a monstrous contraption confected from wood, bronze and grindstones. (Daranatz buys its chocolate in the form of ready-made, though high-quality, sheets from Valrhôna.)


Hot 'Chocolat Moussuex' at Cazenave


We have just had our first tasting, and while we do not usually post the results of tastings, we thought this was unusual enough that some info would be helpful to those who visit Bayonne. We do not get much chocolate in America that has ginger or pepper flavoring, so those were tasted and appreciated for what they are, but otherwise we stuck with dark unflavored chocolate.

Our favorites so far have been:

  1. Puyodebat Venezuala, 66% - complex, zesty flavor - with terrific high and low notes - earthy and creamy

  2. Puyodebat Madagascar, 65% - smooth sophistated taste and texture, berries, wine.

  3. Cazenave Noir, 51% - sweeter than we might otherwise like, but was still appreciated by all.

We also sampled other Puyodebat that we split on: St. Domingue (understated), Sao Tome (tobacco flavor), and their 72% blend. A note of caution, we would suggest saving the 85% strictly for baking.

Cazenave's "Lehen Bezala, Chocolat a l'ancienne" is a pretty rough for most palates. Worth a try for the authentic Bayonne taste, but not something to savor.

We had a sample bag from l' Atelier du Chocolat, but although it was lots of fun to pass around the bits and pieces, we were all tasting different bits so we could not rate it.

There is still a lot more we brought back to taste. We will post more info soon.



l'Atelier du Chocolat



Addresses of Bayonne Chocolate Shops:

l'Atelier du Chocolat, 2, Rue des Carmes
Cazenave, 19, Arceaux du Port-Neuf
Daranatz, 15, Arceaux du Port-Neuf
Pudobeyat, 66 Rue d'Espagne

Bayonne , 18 th C.


The center of the photo is the center of town

rue Port-Neuf

In the middle ages there were canals which meandered down this street  (like in Venice ) as well as the Port-de-Suzeye, Port de Bertaco...During that time, the canals gave access to the homes there and were filled in in the 17th century.

This rich past has left Bayonne with a substantial architectural heritage: arched cellars from the 13th and 14th centuries, the amazing half timbered "bull's blood" houses which line the quays and enormous stone buildings with wrought iron balconies from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Guardian Unlimited
Dark secret

Europe's cacao capital isn't Brussels or Geneva , reckons Taras Grescoe. It's the Basque city of Bayonne , where they still serve chocolate the old-fashioned way: bitter, spicy and in a cup (Read more),7447,1491846,00.html

Also worth a visit in neighboring Biarritz , is the Musee du Chocolat. Out along the ocean, and a bit off the beaten path. A little hokey. The tour is quick, and they have English audio tapes. They have a great collection of old chocolate gadgets and boxes:

Musee du Chocolat 14 Avenue Beau Rivage Biarritz

The chocolatier, Henriet has a shop in the museum.


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