HOW SERIOUSLY THE FRENCH
take their chocolate and pastries can be seen in the example of Auguste Pralus, founder of the eponymous house of PRALUS
. For his services as chocolatier and patissier he was given France's National Order of Merit. Furthermore he earned the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrir de France
award in 1955. Today the house is continued by his son Francois, who in 1991 set up his Laboratoire Chocolat
Besides delicious cakes and pastries -- including the famous Praluline
created by Auguste Pralus in 1955 -- the products of PRALUS
include 20 origin bars with a rich variety of flavours to explore. Most are 75% but a notable exception is the 45% pure Criollo bar Melissa
PRALUS chocolate is relatively hard to get. In the US the easiest way is probably to order from websites such as Chocosphere. In London, the Monmouth Coffee Company shops sell PRALUS, and Waitrose has begun to stock a limited range of PRALUS bars. In Paris, Lafayette Gourmet, the food section of the Galeries Lafayette department store on boulevard Haussmann, stocks the full range of PRALUS bars.
There are several outlets of PRALUS. The original Salon de The (tea room) is in Roanne, France:
56 rue Charles de Gaulle
open Tue-Sat 8.30-7
And there is also a shop in Paris:
35, rue Rambuteau
Details of further outlets in France and Japan can be found here: www.chocolats-pralus.com, where there is also an online shop.
THE CHOCOLATE BARS
key: (C)riollo (T)rinitario (F)orastero
TANZANIE 75% (F) Tanzania, Africa
The tobacco notes in this interesting bar are already evident in the aroma. In the mouth they are joined by dry, earthy notes and tannins, as well as a slight citrus edge towards the finish. A long dry aftertaste follows, still with lingering hints of tobacco.
VENEZUELA 75% (T) Venezuela, South America
This very well balanced bar carries flavours of brazil nuts and mushrooms, with a spicy warmth and hints of nutmeg, and offers a smooth, yet multi-layered tasting experience.
VANUATU 75% (T) Vanuatu, South Pacific
This extraordinary bar from a rare origin reveals a distinctly smoky flavour - the beans are roasted over woodsmoke - accompanied by rich Trinitario aromas and followed by a strong and full finish and a dry aftertaste. A bar which definitely extends your tasting horizon.
Update: This bar sadly is no longer sold.
MELISSA 45% (C)Indonesia
This Indonesian bar is one of the most unusual origin bars available. Not only is it pure Criollo, but at 45% it is also very light. Try this for a strong impression of Criollo chocolate with a distinct note of caramel, as well as vanilla.
INDONESIE 75% (C)Indonesia
In effect this is the dark version of Melissa, as it is a pure Criollo bar from the same origin with 75% cocoa. Nevertheless the Criollo taste is more subtle in this bar than in its lighter cousin. It is accompanied by notes of liquorice and black treacle, with a bitter finish and dry aftertaste.
MADAGASCAR 75% (C)Madagascar, Africa
This is another very good bar from PRALUS. Its aroma already gives away the slightly acidic flavours of citrus fruits which fill your mouth together with a beautiful example of the distinctive Criollo taste. This bar is not at all bitter, despite 75% cocoa solids, and has a slightly oily but very pleasant texture.
GHANA 75% (F)Ghana, West Africa
This Forastero bar offers a rich and pleasant experience albeit without any surprises. A safe bet but perhaps not the first choice for a tasting event.
Update: This bar appears to have been discontinued.
TRINIDAD 75% (T)Trinidad, South America
From the homeland of the Trinitario, this bar delivers a rich and slightly dry flavour with notes of spices and berry fruits and hints of tobacco and burnt wood. It finishes off well, with a good aftertaste.
COLOMBIE 75% (T)Colombia, South America
A thoroughly satisfying bar, Colombie offers notes of coffee and acidic fruit as well as a hint of wood. Expect a slightly dry but pleasing finish and a very good aftertaste.
JAVA 75% (C/T)Java, Indonesia
This well-balanced bar combines sweet Criollo flavours with the warmer and richer taste of a fruity Trinitario. The latter component is also responsible for the excellent finish of this bar.
Update: This bar has been replaced by the Djakarta bar.
PAPOUASIE 75% (T)Papua New Guinea, South East Asia
A less strong performance than some other bars by PRALUS, this chocolate is perfectly pleasant but does not broaden the taste horizon in the way we have come to expect from this house. A pleasant dryness with a hint of acidity and some notes of coffee, liquorice and nut.
SAO TOME 75% (F)Sao Tome, Africa
This bar shows what good Forastero can be like, with aromas of moist earth, coffee, cloves, cinnamon and pea. Finishes dry.
Other bars by PRALUS include Bresil (F), Equateur (T), Cuba (T), all 75%, and a 100% Criollo bar.