Bonnat, from Voiron in France, began in 1884 and is a highly respected chocolatier known around the world for its extensive range of single origin chocolate bars, ranging from milk to 100% cocoa. Still a family run business today headed by Cécile and Stéphane Bonnat, Bonnat has willingly changed little in its time, including the bar wrapper designs which depict this companies long history. Their maxim is 'What's good for the palate does not harm to the soul'.
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Bonnat from France
The Bonnat family has been creating chocolates since 1884 from the town of Voiron in France. Voiron is situated in the Southeast of France, approximately 25kms from the city of Grenoble and approximately 100kms from the border with Switzerland. Whilst not really described as a tourist town it does receive a passing trade of tourists and this is mainly due to its location next to the national park and Grand Chatreuse monastery famed for its Carthusian monks and their naturally made liqueurs. Bonnat chocolatierie holds tours of their large shop, production and tea-rooms situated in the centre of the town and attracts a wide range of visiting nationalties to this chocolate mecca. Bonnat do in fact make chocolate for the Carthusian monks and are proud to be the only chocolatier to have ever made chocolate for the ‘Motherhouse’ of the Carthusian order.
The family Bonnat
Bonnat is the oldest family-run chocolate company in France today its first ‘Maître chocolatier’, meaning master chocolate maker, was Félix Bonnat. Accompanying their father shortly after were his sons, Armand and Gaston, and with their help Bonnat became a highly successful chocolate makers with their chocolates available in more than 180 shops in France.
In 1956 Raymond Bonnat, a grandson of Félix Bonnat who had studied chocolate in preparation for his role, took over the lead role at Chocolat Bonnat. It was Raymond Bonnat who in the early 1980’s began making the single origin chocolate bars at Bonnat we see today. Revolutionary at the time, single origin bars have become the pinnacle of a chocolatiers skills, converting the raw cocoa into the rich, charismatic chocolate that all chocolate connoisseurs around the world enjoy and compare.
Three years after his role began Raymond married the daughter of a prominent hoteliers from the region, Nicole. Nicole also helped the company move forward and it is now two of her children, Cécile and Stéphane Bonnat who complement the company today in the fourth generation.
Bonnat built its reputation on their decorated range of bonbons when Southeast France was somewhat of a thoroughfare for the chocolate and cocoa business, then being on one of the principal trading routes to Switzerland and the revolutionary introduction of milk chocolate. Many of the original bonbon recipes are still made today, namely the ‘pave’; a layered hazelnut and almond praline, and the krugette; a stock of candied orange coated in chocolate. Pralines and nut based chocolate recipes have always been a popular recipe for chocolate bonbons whilst this tradition has slowly given way to more fruits and flavoured ganache, enrobed in chocolate.
Bonnat single origin bars
The range of single origin chocolate bars produced by Bonnat has continuously increased since the 1980’s and consists of chocolate bars created from most of the cacao varieties found on the planet today, including some of the rarest and expensive such as the Chuao and Porcelana. With each harvest these single origin chocolate bars differ in their flavour, as with fine wine. It is one of Bonnat’s strengths as a chocolatier to retain and develop the flavour of the particular cocoa and its origin to its potential within the finished chocolate bar.
Bonnat chocolate is steeped in history and thrives on its family traditions and nostalgia. Bonnat has changed very little along the way compared to many brands but has continued to expand the Bonnat brand throughout the world and introduce many more exceptional single origin and plantation chocolates for us all to enjoy.
Unique to Bonnat
Bonnat produces something quite unique in the single origin bar range; high cocoa milk chocolate. Surabaya, Asfarth and Java are three single origin, milk chocolate bars that Bonnat create with a difference, each with a substantial 65% cocoa content making them quite unlike the sweet, milk chocolate we are all so used to. With this increased cocoa content and of course relative reduced sugar content these bars offer a milk chocolate with punch, reduced sweetness and those acidulous notes and characters found in fine flavour cocoa beans.
Little known facts about Bonnat
- Bonnat supports programs in Peru to reduce the production of cocaine by encouraging farmers to plant cocoa instead of ‘coca’, the source of cocaine.
- Stéphane Bonnat collects and restores antique chocolate making equipment.
- Bonnat have two branded stores in Tokyo, ran by local partners.
- Bonnat chocolate bars carry wither the symbol KF PARVE or KF Dairy - both certified by the Federation of Synagogues Kashrus as Kosher.