One of my fave rituals in Paris - a chocolat chaud at Café Saint Regis on the Ile Saint-Louis. Mmmmmmmmm!
Guest: Emily Gaudichon
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I love checking in with my lovely friend Emily Gaudichon (@therealemilyinparis) who lives in Paris’s 6th arrondissement. She has her finger on the pulse of everything going on and always has some terrific tips for me to pop into my itinerary for my next visit to the French capital!
When in France one of my fave ways to spend a few hours is sipping a chocolat chaud in a Paris café. In Australia a hot chocolate rarely comes without a marshmallow. But this not the done thing in Paris! The chocolat chaud in Paris bares almost no resemblance to the hot chocolate on offer in most Australian cafés. No powdered chocolate and frothed up milk for the Parisians! Non!
Historically there were recipes for the royal household for hot chocolate. Chocolate came to France via the Spanish who brought it back from South America to the Basque region. In the day of Louis XIV, chocolate was only for the nobility. The royal family even had their own chocolatiers to make their chocolat. It wasn’t until much later that it became available to us lowly folk!
I’m actually not much of a chocolate eater. I could go a lifetime without eating a single chocolate if necessary. But as soon as I can get my hands on a velvety smooth and rich chocolat chaud to drink, I’m a goner. I could bathe in it and I still wouldn’t have enough! Most Francophiles will know about the famous chocolat chaud at Angelina’s in Paris which I have had and absolutely loved, but I think there are some other places just as good! Emily had a terrific tip to save waiting in line at the Angelina’s on the Rue de Rivoli: there is a little cart sometimes out the front of the store, but even when that is not operational, customers can enter the door on the right hand side and order a chocolat chaud to go, emporter! In five minutes you will have your divinely scrumptious hot chocolate and can head across the road to the Jardins de Tuileries to sit and savour the deliciousness whilst sitting under the arbors of the gardens, gazing upon the loveliness of the Louvre. That sure beats waiting in line for an eternity! Although dining in at Angelina’s is absolutely worth it if you haven’t been in before. The decor and the dining experience are both lovely.
According to Emily, the elements considered by Parisians for a brilliant chocolat chaud are simply chocolate and milk! That’s it! Although there are some recipes a little more complex with corn flour as well as butter to make the chocolate glossy. A bowl of Chantilly cream on the side never goes astray either!
I love chocolat chaud at the Café Saint Regis on the Ile Saint-Louis. To me it is the right temperature, velvety, not too sweet, just the right amount of milk and it’s perfect for me to dunk a pastry into. It is also already all mixed when it comes to the table. When I had a hot chocolate with Emily in Paris just before Christmas at Bonaparte’s in the Saint Germain des Pres area, I was surprised to have the chocolate lining the cup with the warmed milk to pour in and then stir to combine! I’d never had one like that! The ceremony of it, as well as the flavour… it was gorgeous. It was so good I had to order a second one! There are some other cafés serving chocolat chaud with a whole ritual accompanying the experience. Carette at the Place des Vosges serves their chocolat chaud in a gorgeous teapot style pouring jug with a generous bowl of Chantilly cream to enhance the richness further! However it comes, a chocolat chaud is usually an event when savoured in Paris.
Being a Melbourne girl, we are known for our obsession with coffee, in fact we’ve developed a bit of a reputation in Australia for being “coffee snobs”! But there is a global reputation brewing for the expertise of our Melbourne coffee makers. I recall in London a number of years ago, a cafe in Notting Hill had a queue of customers waiting for coffee that went out the door and down the street. When I got close, I saw advertised on a sign out the front that they had a Melbourne trained barista there! It was then I realised that the serious business of coffee here in Melbs might not be the same universally. When I’m away, I like to find a place to pick up a good strong brew, one without burnt grounds, with a fabulous flavour and a temperature that’s just right. According to Emily there are a number of places to pick up a café that will even meet Melbourne standards!
Well Paris has a thriving coffee culture which most Aussies will be thrilled to know. It wasn’t always so popular though. I was doing a little reading up and discovered that coffee was originally discovered in Ethiopia apparently and then eventually Turkish style coffee was introduced to Paris in 1669 by an ambassador to the court of King Louis XIV. The ambassador was sent by Mohammed IV with sacks of coffee. He described it as a magical beverage when mixed with a small quantity of cloves, cardamom seeds and sugar.
It became popular a couple of years later when an Armenian bloke opened a coffee-drinking booth at the fair of St. Germain. So with the gorgeous aroma of coffee in the air, in an era when people weren’t as sanitary as they are now (I can only imagine the smells on the streets!) the scent of fresh café drew teh customers in. Soon all the fair-goers were hunting out the “little black” coffees, or petit noir as they called them. This marked the beginning of Parisian coffee houses.
The first coffee house in Paris was Le Procope which started in 1686 and still stands in the Odéon part of Paris right near Emily’s local area. I have eaten at Le Procope just last summer and whilst I was enthralled with the history dripping from the walls, it was during le canicule and was much too hot for coffee! I will just have to return!
Emily told me of some Australians now bringing our coffee culture to Paris. Head to Hardware Société if you’d like to partake in some quality brew!
Les faves of Emily et Loulabelle
I’m guessing Les Deux Magots, Angelina, possibly Ladurée and maybe even Café de Flore would make any list of popular places to order a chocolat chaud. But Emily and I discussed some others of our favourite places to grab either a coffee or a hot chocolate in Paris. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list! But if you’re wanting a recommendation, these are a start!
Just a heads-up, Un Dimanche à Paris is a café I had heard wonderful things about and had on my list of places to visit the next time I’m in town. Devastatingly it has been a COVID casualty and is now closed. I had only seen it added on recent lists of the best places to frequent, so it is always worth checking the most up to date info for any place you’re working into your itinerary.
Chocolat Chaud faves
Café Saint-Regis (4th arr.)
Café Carette (3rd arr.)
Bonaparte’s (6th arr.)
Plaq (2nd arr.)
Hardware Société (18th arr.)
Article about Aussies bringing coffee to Paris at Hardware Société
Peloton Café (4th arr.)
Café Kitsuné (3rd arr.)
Judy-cantine qualitarienne (6th arr.) also serves wellness bowls and gluten free
Noir café (4th arr. – Ile Saint-Louis)
Good News café – (a few locations)
Certified Café – (3 locations)
The Stray Bean – Versailles
Emily mentioned a mix of chocolat chaud and wine! I’m going to give that a try with Molly J. Wilk’s wonderful hot chocolate recipe to which I will add some warmed wine. I’m going to try a mulled wine and a regular wine and I’ll come back here to leave a comment with my rating of which is best!