Bayonne is not just famous for its jambon. Astonishing as it may seem, chocolate making is an ancient tradition here. The deliciously dark, somewhat bitter, high cacoa content chocolate has been “famous” in the town for four centuries.
Chocolate making began in the 17th century when Jews from Spain fled the Inquisition and settled in Saint-Esprit on the right bank of the Adour River. As chocolate-making artisans, they introduced their recipe for working with the cacoa bean to the French residents of Bayonne. Using top quality products and their expertise, they soon became famous the world over.
There are seven certified chocolatiers in Bayonne who use their talents with the 200-year-old recipe. The Academie of Chocolate was opened in Bayonne in 1993. Staying true to tradition, Bayonne celebrates chocolate every year with the “journées chocolat” beginning the week-end of l’Ascension. This year, in May 2013, the two-day celebration begins on Friday, May 10. During the celebration, the trempage du chocolat, (dipping treats in chocolate) allows everyone to taste mouthfuls of chocolate created by master artisans. Guided visits of the town take place throughout the town, along the quais and in the streets during these “delicious” days. Who wouldn’t love to taste that wickedly enticing chocolate in over-abundance?
When you are in Bayonne, take a guided visit of the town and learn about Basque traditions, architecture and food. The chocolate of Bayonne “tour” is available all year long and ends with a delicious cup of hot chocolate.