The Guide

From the Andes to the Alps

The story of Courchevel’s first chocolaterie

When Argentinian Florencia Malbran came to Courchevel to ski, she was mesmerised by all the beautiful shops: designer clothes, jewellery, flowers… But no chocolaterie!

Florencia hails from San Carlos di Bariloche in Patagonia which is famous for two things: skiing and chocolate. Strolling down the high street you can’t help but be drawn in to one of the many chocolate shops that exist almost side-by-side.

Growing up bewitched by the magic of chocolate, it’s not surprising that Florencia spotted the gap in the market for a chocolaterie in Courchevel.

A lawyer and ski instructor, she returned to Argentina and started to retrain with a friend of her father, a chocolate maker for over 50 years. Persuading a master chocolatier to reveal his secrets wasn’t easy, and Florencia certainly wasn’t known for her skill in the kitchen! But her dedication and attention to detail paid off and eventually he saw that she was going to be an excellent chocolatier. The secrets came flooding forth.

Finding the perfect cocoa bean

Training completed, the next stage was to work out the logistics. Florencia wanted to use rare Criollo beans, a grand cru bean known as the ‘prince of cocoas’. They come from a tree which is native to Central and South America and are vulnerable to a variety of threats, but the beans produced are delicately flavoured with a long duration of complex secondary notes.

Florencia chose an organic supplier for the beans then worked with a laboratory in Paris to prepare her own unique blend. Then she set to work finding sources for all the other organic ingredients that feature in her chocolates: almonds, cherries, pistachios, sesame, ginger, goji berries, quinoa…

The chocolate shop – aptly named ‘Piste Noire’ – stocks around 40-50 different flavours each day.

Handmade every day

Working in a small laboratory in Bozel, in the valley below Courchevel, Florencia works late at night to make the chocolates by hand, which sounds very ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ but it’s so that she can restock the shop daily.

“I produce the chocolates in small quantities so that they’re always at their freshest in the shop. I find that the flavour is at its most pronounced when the chocolate is fresh, so ideally customers should eat their chocolate straight away! But if they’re taking home a selection for family and friends then of course they will keep for a month or so, but they don’t contain any preservatives.”

The hand cut squares and rectangles are quite different to the dainty, moulded shapes that you’ll find in most French chocolateries. These simple shapes are in the Argentinian style and Florencia prefers not to overwork the chocolate and to let the flavours speak for themselves.

Another nod to her hometown is the Dulce de Leche chocolate. Popular across South America, this unctuous treat is made from sweetened milk and tastes a little like fudge or caramel.

Piste Noire Chocolaterie, Le Forum

In December 2012, Florencia opened the doors to Courchevel’s first chocolate shop. It’s a real feast for the senses: as you enter, the aroma of chocolate is intensely comforting, and the display looks so beautiful and colourful that you are greedily drawn to it. But indulging in a little chocolate every now and then is no bad thing, Florencia explains:

“The fruit of the cocoa tree has many virtues, being full of flavonoids which act as antioxidants and serotonin, so it’s good for your heart and your happiness!”

Whirring away behind the desk is a hot chocolate machine. Made with melted chocolate, it’s the most indulgent and delicious hot chocolate in Courchevel, don’t leave without trying it!

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