Without a doubt, the best chocolates in France are made by Puyricard. The long standing family tradition of making chocolate is, indeed, at its finest here due to the company continuing with the old-school way of chocolate making and the fact that everything is made with all natural ingredients. The name Puyricard is symbolic in France for fine tasting chocolates and as luck would have, the factory is open to the public for guided tours. The experience will allow you to dive into the heart of the chocolate-making processes. You will be able to watch the artisans as they meticulous work on their craft while the guide explains to you the intricate details of how the pieces are made. You will also get to do some taste- testing along the way, which of course will leave you wanting for more.
If you’ve ever wanted to watch and experience the old-fashioned way of making chocolate, then you will want to visit the Puyricard Chocolate Factory in Provence. The love and care the family and artisans put into their craft of finely made chocolates (and other confections) contributes to Puyricard being considered, in my opinion, the best chocolate in the world.
The Best Chocolate in the World in Born
The history of Puyricard begins well before the name and chocolaterie was ever thought of. It all began in 1960 in the Belgian Congo by Marie-Anne and Jean-Guy Roelandts, both of whom were Belgian expats there. At that time, Jean-Guy had an advertising agency and Marie-Anne was an apprentice for a chocolate maker. A few years went by and Marie-Anne became well known for her mastery at making fine tasting chocolates. At this time, she and Jean-Guy opened their first chocolate-making factory and were quite successful.
Though their business was a success, Marie-Anne and Jean-Guy were forced to leave their home in the Belgian Congo in 1967. In search for a sunny place to live, they moved to the village of Puyricard in the south of France, not far from Aix-en-Provence. Here they opened their little, chocolate making factory which they decided to name Puyricard, after the village they had come to love. Their hard work and continued commitment to making the finest chocolates paid off and today, Puyricard is considered to be the best chocolates in France, but I would say they are the best chocolates in the world.
Today, Tanguy Roelandts, the son of Marie-Anne and Jean-Guy, runs the company and continues to honor the tradition that his parents began nearly 50 years ago. He travels around the world searching for the just-right ingredients and flavor of cocoa beans ensuring that only the finest made chocolates are produced. Nearly every facet of the chocolate making process is done by hand and there are no artificial flavors, no additives or preservatives. Do to this, the chocolates must be consumed within a short duration of time. All of this put together makes Puyricard chocolate one of the most pleasurable eating experiences I’ve ever had.
The Tour Starts With A Film
The tour of the factory starts in the main boutique. I would suggest getting there early so you can shop around and sample the many chocolates and dessert biscuits and other confections that are available.
Next, everyone on the tour will be taken to a room just next to the boutique where you will watch an excellent short film (around 10 minutes) on the history of the Roelandts family and Puyricard. The film is only in French, but there are English subtitles so not to worry for those of you who don’t speak French. I quite liked this part of the tour, because it gives you a feel and flavor of why and how things were, and are, done in order to bring you the finest chocolates imaginable.
Once the film is over, you will be directed to leave all your items behind in the room. This means purses, cameras, coats, scarves, etc. The room is securely locked so you don’t have to worry about anything being taken.
NOTE: THERE ARE NO PHOTOS ALLOWED ON THE TOUR
NOTE: Wear comfortable shoes. This is not a tour for high-heeled or uncomfortable shoes.
The “no photos during the tour” rule is a bummer for obvious reasons, but once the tour is under way you realize why. The company of course would want to publish their own photos for press and proprietary reasons, but what I think might be more important is that once you see how the artisans work, it would be way too distracting and bothersome for them to have tons of people come through on tours every day snapping photos. It would also take away the privacy of the artisans so the no photo rule is, I think, a good one.
The Rules of the Puyricard Factory Tour
Once everyone has shed all their valuables and are ready to go, the guide will walk you across the parking lot and into the first area of the factory. Upon entering, each person must wipe their shoes on a special mat. Then everyone must wash and dry their hands in the cleaning area. Lastly everyone will be given a white, paper gown to put on and a white, paper hat called a Charlotte. For people with long hair, you must put all your hair up and tuck it inside this hat.
Next, before entering the main part of the factory, the guide will give you the rules. All rules are common sense rules so it’s nothing out of the ordinary. The top ones being:
- Do not touch anything. If you touch something, the workers have to go through and painstakingly clean everything down from top to bottom and they obviously don’t really want to do this since it stops their all-important chocolate making work.
- Stay together at all times. Please do not lag behind in the group or wonder off.
- Don’t bother the workers. You are there as a guest and to listen to the guide. If you have questions then ask them to the guide and he/she will undoubtedly give you the most detailed answer imaginable. Don’t bother the workers, remember, they have important chocolate making to get to.
- Walk carefully. The floor is a bit slippery due to the chocolate shavings or ingredients that have fallen onto it. Be very careful and walk slow as you proceed through the tour.
- If you are going to faint or feel like you are, signal to the guide before doing so and falling face first into the chocolate or on the floor. Apparently, there have been cases where the strong and over-powering smell of delicious chocolate has caused some people to faint or feel like they are going to. I completely understand this sensation and so does the guide. No judging here, just signal before you cause a scandal.
Getting Started on the Chocolate Factory Tour
Once everyone is all gowned up and clear about the rules, the doors to the factory open and the tour begins. The first thing that hits you is the most magnificent smell of fine chocolate. It’s actually overcoming in such a wonderful way.
The guide will take you around to different stations and while you watch the artisans work, he/she will tell you about the processes they are preforming from start to finish. At each station, the guide is super detailed on how things are done and why they are done in such a fashion. As you move around the factory you will get to see the different types of jobs the artisans do as well as all the differences in how certain chocolates are made. At multiple different times during the tour, you will be treated to taste-testing what the artisans are making.
You will also get to see all the different molds that are used and how they are filled, emptied and cleaned. Depending on what time of year you visit, the finished products on the shelves will be different. My family took the tour in the spring, just before Easter, so much of the tray-filled items were chocolate Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies.
Not only will you see the processes on how the chocolates are made, but also the process by which some are coated with even more chocolate and you will get to watch the wheel of chocolate. This happened to be my personal favorite. It is actually a wheel that is covered in liquid chocolate and as it rotates around, a chocolate waterfall lands in a basin. To have one of these in my home would be a marvelous thing, indeed!
The last thing on the tour is the care and cleaning of the facility and the plastic, chocolate molds. This is really interesting because apparently it all has to be done in such a specific way and with a specific type of product because if not, the product will stay on the molds and will affect the taste of the chocolate.
As you exit the factory, you are lead back into the room you first started in and will discard your paper gown and hat and then head back towards the room where your personal belongings were left. To conclude the tour, a tray with a lot of different chocolates is set on a table and you can have as many as you want to your hearts delight.
Warning on this: My husband ate too much chocolate while in the boutique before the tour, during the tour and on this last part of the tour. So about 5 minutes after leaving the facility he had a complete sugar rush proceeded by a total sugar crash. Needless to say, I did the driving home while he slept on the passenger’s side. So, if you really, really like chocolate and are not able to control yourself (which is so understandable here) then maybe have a designated driver on the way home!
Facts About Puyricard’s Best Chocolate in the World
Nearly 50% of their annual sales takes place during the Christmas season
90% of their chocolates for Christmas are made in December
Molded chocolates are nearly 70% of their production
A master chocolate maker can make 20 kg of molded chocolate per day
Puyricard only has chocolate boutiques in France. Today, there are 20 such boutiques all around the country.
It takes 1 minute and 10 seconds to make a piece of their chocolate
Other Random Facts About Chocolate
The French eat nearly 7 kg of chocolate per person, per year.
In the year 2010, the French consumed 403,000 tons of chocolate.
France is the third largest consumer in Europe behind Germany and the United Kingdom
Information About The Tour
Avenue Georges de Fabry
Tours takes place during the months of January through October. The tour does not operate during November and December.
Tour days are Monday through Thursday only
The tours are in French, but there are English tours available and you will need to specifically ask for when one is available.
There must be a minimum of 10 people on the tour or it will be canceled.
10 Euros per person
Children must be over the age of 10 years (this would definitely fall under family fun things to do)
Duration of the Tour
Around 2 hours
Reservations are Required
There are set times for each day when tours will take place therefore you will need to make a reservation. There are a few ways to do this:
- Call the main office at 0033 (0)4 42 28 18 14
- Email them for information at email@example.com
- Go online here, make your reservations and pay.
For any additional information you can find it on the company website which is in both French and English.
BONUS: Since 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Puyricard Chocolate Factory, anyone born in 1967 gets a special gift when visiting the boutiques this year. Just let them know that you are celebrating your 50th birthday in 2017, too, and show proof of this and your special gift awaits you.
I would love to hear how your tour went and what your favorite part was so please let me know by leaving me a comment below.
The location map, along with my Google Local Guide review, is here.