Chocolate Trading Company retails the largest selection of Michel Cluizel chocolates in the UK. Michel Cluizel is considered to be the finest of French chocolate makers, if not in the world, and has earned the title, the goldsmith of chocolate.
The extensive range of Michel Cluizel Chocolates, from the increasing number of highly successful and award winning Single Origin Chocolate Bars to the delicately flavoured range of fine chocolate Bonbons leaves other chocolate makers standing in terms of quality, purity and choice. Michel Cluizel is a true bean to bar chocolate maker (Cacaofevier) creating true, "fine" chocolate. Furthermore, the proudly independent Michel Cluizel chocolate company continues to evolve and create new and exciting chocolates, and in doing so provides us with a continued level of exceptional quality and exciting new taste experiences to discover.
We invite you to learn a little more about Michel Cluizel and his family by taking a trip with us back to the very beginning through to the present day, with some insights into the Michel Cluizel chocolate company and interesting facts from our own recent interview.
Michel Cluizel - The history
The Michel Cluizel chocolate story began in 1947, in the small town of Damville southern Normandy in France, when Michel Cluizel's parents, Marc and Marcelle Cluizel, who at the time were pastry manufacturers, began their own adventure in creating their very first chocolates. This began in their own kitchen.
Before their first year as chocolate makers had ended Michel Cluizel had himself become involved and was now an apprentice. His interest was born from simply watching his parents working with the chocolate, fascinated by its qualities and filled with wonder as his father plunged almonds and hazelnuts into a caramelised sugar to make praline, he watched his mother making the chocolate boxes destined for their customers gifts. Needless to say their ambitions became a very successful reality with their chocolates attracting much praise for years to follow. In 1971 they moved the chocolate business into new, larger premises nearby in the countryside. The successful partnership of Michel Cluizel and his parents lasted for 36 years.
In 1981 the first export order was despatched to the USA and soon after in 1983 the Michel Cluizel chocolate company began to create its very own Couverture with extensive installations created in the factory to do this. The following year Michel Cluizel's father died and it was at this point his two sons Pierre and Marc joined the company.
Michel Cluizel opened his first shop in Paris in 1987 under the name of “La Fontaine au Chocolat” which is still present and thriving today, playing host to the worlds tourists visiting Paris in search of the true fine French chocolate. Michel Cluizel describes this shop as their “showcase to the rest of the world” due to the tourists from many different cultures and nationalities that seek out the shop year after year to marvel and indulge on the chocolates displayed. It can be found at 201, rue Saint-Honoré, 75001, Paris. The shop boasts a cascading Chocolate Fountain as its centre piece and although a modest size proudly offers the extensive range of Michel Cluizel chocolates in an attractive and orderly setting. Catherine Cluizel, daughter of Michel Cluizel, manages this shop so it is quite possible that if you should be lucky enough to visit she may well be the person that assists you and wraps your selection. The shop has caused confusion to some visitors over the years as it was perhaps not evident enough that this is in fact Michel Cluizel's own shop, even though it is selling only Michel Cluizel chocolates. To avoid any future confusion about its ownership it will be renamed La Boutique Michel Cluizel.
In 1997 Michel Cluizel produced his first single origin chocolate, the Hacienda Concepcion. Not only single origin this bar is technically also a single estate chocolate, the first of many.
In 1999, after one and a half years of research, Michel Cluizel prohibited soya lecithin, a natural emulsifier, from all his chocolates. Soya lecithin was in fact introduced to chocolate manufacture in 1957 and is commonly used to facilitate the mixing of chocolate ingredients. As a known perfectionist, Michel Cluizel already used the purest ingredients in his chocolates, cane sugar (not beet sugar) and Bourbon vanilla bean (not extract or vanillin) so the aim to purify his chocolates further by not including this particular ingredient was a step closer to perfection. Real chocolate in its finest and purest form.
Michel Cluizel - The family
Michel Cluizel and his four children each have their own well-defined roles within the company today. Pierre Cluizel is commercial manager, Mark Cluizel is technical director monitoring the factory and its many employees, Sylvi Cluizel is accounts director and Catherine Cluizel is director of the Michel Cluizel chocolate shop in Paris. Michel Cluizel is master chocolate maker. Each have their own dedicated team of managers to monitor the numerous departments within the Michel Cluizel chocolate factory. Over the years the company has grown substantially and now employs approximately 180-200 people.
We at Chocolate Trading Company always find it a fascinating experience to witness how all the various chocolates are made and should imagine even if you do not particularly like chocolate would be amazed at the ingenious craftsmanship and technology used to create the many different types of fine chocolate products in the Michel Cluizel collection.
Michel Cluizel factory
The Michel Cluizel chocolate factory itself is a low-rise modern building with a small but very professional feel about it, certainly not big enough to be classed as industrial and definitely not in the same league of mass production. Outside the grounds are surrounded with fields of wheat fringed with red poppies and a flag flutters proudly at the entrance bearing the Michel Cluizel name. Inside, the craftsmanship that has been used from the beginning by Michel Cluizel and his family is still being used today, although there are of course machines now to assist in the countless areas of chocolate production so necessary to the economics of the company, and ultimately the cost of the Michel Cluizel chocolates you buy.
The interior is, as you would expect, necessarily clinical and mostly white with many divisions between the numerous chocolate production areas required for the different processes. It is filled with machinery of all shapes and sizes, many areas resemble a sophisticated wine distillery with large imposing vats so high that steps are required. Dotted in between the machinery and in each area of production there are as many craftsmen and women dressed in traditional styled uniforms, white for men and light pink for women, concentrating on their own perfected task. We paused to watch a lady in charge of one in a set of large copper cauldrons. The gleaming cauldron was being slowly turned by machine over naked flames and a paddle was at the same time gently stirring the contents in one direction across the centre, every now and then ingredients would be added at just the right moment and after a quick additional stir by hand she would return to watching the development. The mouth-watering aroma was intense and it was no surprise to find the contents of this copper cauldron were destined to become the many centres of the praline chocolates.
The praline is first made with 25 kilos of sugar and roughly the same amount of hazelnuts and Almonds. The sugar was added first, followed by the dried fruits in stages, eventually the sugar caramelised to a wonderful golden brown and the mixture combined to the point of completion. The previous batches were sat behind her in large trays and left to cool and harden. This praline would then be broken up and moved to be crushed in a large granite mill until a fine paste is reached and soon ready to be introduced to the chocolate. Granite apparently is the only material that is capable of successfully performing this task with such a rich matter without sticking. The industrial method for making praline is to crush the nuts with icing sugar and one can see how much easier and quicker this would be – and how much less tasty!
When a simple task such as stirring or pouring can be handled by machine, and not to the detriment of quality, it has to of course be automated. One such time consuming area of chocolate making is the decoration of each chocolate, the edible jewel and the personalisation of the chocolate. It is impossible not to be impressed at the high speed and accuracy of these craftsmen and women as they squeeze out a perfect whirl from a piping bag onto the chocolate again and again without the slightest of deviation. This is one of those tasks you would think be done by machine, but when you actually witness the arm movement required to create this whirl, which begins lower than the finish with a little final flick to one side on a randomly placed tray of fresh chocolates, you start to understand that it would be near to impossible to build a machine to perfect this, and more importantly to perfect a machine for each of the unique Cluizel chocolates requiring specific attention to decoration. The simple things are often the most intriguing, like the small piece of gold leaf adorning the Palet Lait, for example. This is performed again by hand and a simple finger movement from a reel of gold thread deposits the edible Gold onto the chocolate. You can’t help but wonder how disastrous this could be if you were to take the reigns.
The silky smooth and rich ganache, which is arguably the most popular and decadent of chocolate fillings, is again laboriously mixed and then kneaded like bread on a large marble table. Batches the size of loaves are prepared and split for their next adventure in one of the many machines that dice into various shapes ready for their luxurious chocolate coatings.
A large part of the chocolate making process that perhaps gets overlooked somewhat when talking about fine chocolate production is the use of the non-chocolate products. The many tonnes of carefully selected and harvested hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, Coffee Beans and assorted fruits of Oranges, lemons, Cherries, apples, grapes, and so on, receive the same amount of consideration and craftsmanship from the initial harvesting itself to the storage and processing at Michel Cluizel. For instance, each Spring several tonnes of prime Morello cherries are harvested from the Rhone valley and aged in Kirsch in large old oak barrels for a minimum of one year before use.. The many grapes used also are aged in Brandy in the same way.
Each of the nuts and fruits has its own harvesting point and is stored and prepared in its own individual way. It is these numerous raw products that provide the basic ingredients and flavours for the majority of Michel Cluizel chocolates. Michel Cluizel believes the only way to achieve a perfect product is to control its entire production process.
Developing Michel Cluizel chocolates
The laboratory inside the Michel Cluizel factory plays a vital role as it is here that all raw materials are constantly analysed and their production monitored throughout. New chocolates are also conceived and developed here with calculations made in every aspect of taste, quality, shelf life and appearance. The laboratory looks a very serious place with all the equipment you would expect from a scientific department. Microscopes, computers and all the equipment needed to inspect and detail every single aspect of chocolate production. Some Michel Cluizel chocolates have taken years to perfect from their birth in this laboratory and throughout their production they will be constantly monitored to see how they perform. Just as the laboratory plays a vital role in the quality control of the chocolate, the many machines themselves assisting the chocolate making process also require constant attention. Without these machines the continuous production would cease. A team of mechanics, technicians and computer specialists are responsible for keeping the production moving and working efficiently. Machines are often modified and adapted to the chocolates, not the other way round. Watching how some of these machines work and the function they perform it is understandable that Michel Cluizel refers to them as the “ingenious masters”.
Ultimately all these ingredients are finally introduced to the silky smooth chocolate preparations. The chocolate itself, created from the highest quality cocoas from the finest plantations, travels through many processes and takes on numerous forms before it can technically be called chocolate. Even when the cocoa is roasted, ground and eventually takes the form of a thick dark brown liquid with a fantastically rich chocolate smell it isn’t even then chocolate and therefore the delicious smell that fills the air should not be described as such either. Only when the sugar and cocoa butter are added and finally conched to just 18 microns, in the case of Michel Cluizel chocolates, to achieve that melt in the mouth feel can it then be classed as chocolate. With Michel Cluizel creating so many different Cocoa Percentages, Origins and Blends you can begin to imagine the immense work involved for each of the amazing chocolate products created. Michel Cluizel creates over 200 bonbons for his collection alone.
A single Michel Cluizel chocolate can contain multiple chocolate mixtures and each of those needs to be handled differently. It’s quite overwhelming when you start to uncover and consider the full practicalities in creating such a substantial fine chocolate collection and providing a constant supply. It is because of this enormous undertaking that the majority of chocolate makers prefer to buy in pre-prepared chocolate couverture, removing part of the equation at least in the major processes of roasting and grinding with all of the testing and additional work involved in this. This of course limits your creativity as a chocolate maker in producing new and unique flavours and forms. In the beginning Michel Cluizel and his family had no choice but to buy in this pre-prepared couverture but in 1983 Michel Cluizel started making his very own couverture, created directly from the cocoa beans he began to painstakingly source and is now one of the few chocolate makers that does so. Today, Michel Cluizel proudly provides his own couverture to over 6000 professional pastry chefs around the world.
Did you know?
We learnt some new and interesting facts from our experience of Michel Cluizel. For example, France, as you would expect, consumes the majority of Michel Cluizel chocolates. The USA is technically the second biggest consumer. However, bearing in mind the much smaller population of the UK, it is in fact the British that eat more Michel Cluizel chocolate per capita than anywhere else outside of France.
The 85% cocoa content chocolate bar is the most popular Michel Cluizel product in France and this echoes the general differences in varying chocolate tastes between the many countries now importing this premium chocolate brand. France preferring the higher cocoa content and therefore more bitter tastes of chocolate whilst America, for example, preferring a lower cocoa content chocolate with a sweeter taste. The UK consumers taste is not too much different from the French tastes when it comes to fine chocolate, although we also do generally prefer a slightly lower cocoa content. It has to be said that all countries are consuming an increased cocoa content chocolate than ever before.
Michel Cluizel confirmed to us that he has seen consumer’s tastes change considerably over the last 10 years with many more customers now requiring the more specialist of chocolates, the pinnacle of which is of course the single origin chocolates. Michel Cluizel explained that customers now want to know about the chocolate they buy, they need to know what it is made of and how it is made. We can certainly confirm this at Chocolate Trading Company and expect only the highest standards for the chocolates in our collection.
In 2003 Cluizel opened its chocolate museum. This impressive venture provides a detailed history of cocoa aided with traditional machinery and interesting artefacts. A cinema showcasing the Michel Cluizel story with insight into how the chocolate is made today, and of course a shop.
In 2004 Michel Cluizel's new company website is created. Previously the shop in Paris was the main focus for Michel Cluizel's online presence.
Also in this year the Mangaro single estate bar, Mangaro Lait single estate bar, Tamarina and Maralumi single estate bar were launched.
In 2008 Michel Cluizel is creating an award winning collection of five dark and two milk, single estate, chocolate bars. All of which are incredibly diverse in their characters and flavour profile and proudly boast of number of awards, including two Golds in the UK's Great Taste Awards, 2008.
Michel Cluizel's Single Estate Chocolate Bars
• Concepcion, 66% cocoa, single estate dark bar (Venezuela)
Notes of vanilla, honey, spice and caramel with hints of mixed dried and black fruits.
• Los Ancones, 67% cocoa, single estate dark bar (Santo Domingo, The Caribbean)
This unique dark chocolate holds a deliciously complex assortment of fresh fruit flavours including apricot, peach and even green olive.
• Vila Gracinda, 67% cocoa, single estate dark bar (Sao Tome)
A flavour profile of earthy, liquorice notes contrasting with a sweet, tropical fruit edge which balance perfectly.
• Mangaro, 65% cocoa, single estate dark bar (Madagascar)
Providing a well balanced range of citrus fruits with an underlying edge of ginger to further depth and character.
• Maralumi, 64% cocoa, single estate dark bar (Papua-New Guinea)
The fine flavour cocoa used provides a slight spicy edge to this mellow dark chocolate with fresh hints of green banana and tart, sour notes of red currant.
• Mangaro Lait, 50% cocoa, single esate milk bar (Madagascar)
The unique flavours of the Mangaro cocoa, present in the Mangaro dark chocolate bar are evident here, with fruity notes, not usually found in high cocoa milk chocolates, and just enough to lift the deeper malt flavours produced from a higher cocoa content.
• Maralumi Lait, 47% cocoa, single estate milk bar (Papua New Guinea)
The unique flavours of the Maralumi cocoa, present in the dark bar are also evident in this superb chocolate bar, with berry notes. A high cocoa milk chocolate with malt and an additional sweet edge.
And so our story ends at this point. It was no surprise to learn that Michel Cluizel Chocolate is determined to continue to do exactly what it has always done and produce the finest quality chocolates possible and in many instances leading the way. A reputation of being the goldsmith of chocolate does not come easy. Unlike some chocolate makers of recent have found, at Michel Cluizel there is no need for any major re-branding or dramatic changes to the ingredients of the chocolates necessary to encompass a different audience. No marketing campaigns focused on re-launching and re-packaging the same product in a different guise to win new customers. Michel Cluizel will remain true to its roots and go from strength to strength. A testimony that quality outlives any other objective surely. Most chocolate manufacturers from around the globe have now merged or been acquired by multinationals, but not this one. A strict control, of high quality, the use of traditional recipes and a selective distribution policy have kept the Michel Cluizel family chocolate business in a leading position in the world of premium chocolate. Long may this continue!
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By The Chocolate Traveller
Chocolate Trading Company