The meeting is given at Place de la Liberté, with the guide Andy, a pronounced English accent echoing his New Zealand origins. The 65-year-old man in the checkered shirt and with a vigorous smile has become, over time, a connoisseur of Bayonne and, for this visit, an experienced chocolate taster, the mission of the day for about fifteen curious on this August day.
A historical chocolate
Photographs of cocoa in hand, Andy goes up the thread. In 1670, the notion of chocolate appeared for the first time in the city archives. “The municipality had to reimburse a family who had bought chocolate in Spain,” he recalls. Earlier, at the beginning of the 17th century, the Spanish Jews settled in the Saint-Esprit district, on the right bank of the Adour, and introduced the manufacture of chocolate.
After the theory, practice. Direction rue Port-Neuf, an “important axis for chocolate”, according to Andy. First stop in front of the big names in chocolate: the Pariès house, founded in 1895, Daranatz born in 1890 and Cazenave, chocolate maker since 1854. Andy disappears into the shop and comes out with chocolate. First tasting, but not the last.
A fake cocoa tree as a sign of welcome. The group enters the Atelier du chocolat, founded in 1951, and discovers, at the back of the shop, a metate, a stone for transforming cocoa into paste. Time in history for an anecdote. “At the end of the 18th century, a legend says that Mr. Lindt forgot to turn off the chocolate mixing machine on Friday evening. On Monday, he discovered that the chocolate was fluid”, narrates Andy. “Today, we let the chocolate work for 48 hours”.
Legend in mind, visitors come out of the workshop with a piece of chocolate with notes enhanced by Espelette pepper: the marriage of two Basque products.
Last stop of a chocolate morning: the Txokola house, member of the Bayonne chocolate academy with the four previous chocolatiers and the artisan Pascal. This workshop works chocolate from bean to bar. The mucilage, cocoa pulp, is worked into juice, with a fruity scent. A roaster and crusher in the back of the shop, the chocolate maker also collects cocoa nibs and nibs from the beans.
“There are a lot of stories, it’s good to know where things come from”, analyzes Christelle Guerrars, 55-year-old sculptor, resident of the Saint-Esprit district. Monique Lemort-Duprat was born in Bayonne and is delighted to discover her hometown differently. “He does it in a playful way,” she says. For his part, Laurent Dutertre, 50, also discovered the history of Bayonne, at the same time. “We had chosen the theme out of greed”, reports the father of the family.
A delicacy always present at Andy. “It’s always different and a pleasure to reveal a city like Bayonne”, highlights the guide, smile still present. He will also be there at the end of October for the chocolate festival.