Fall and winter in Paris are some of our favorite times of the year to visit, and the first nip of chill in the air brings many seasonal treats to mind – street vendors roasting chestnuts, steaming crepes with a warm, thick blanket of Nutella, mulled wine at a market. One of our favorite winter indulgences is a cup of hot chocolate from one of Paris' renowned cafés. But the eternal question is: Who has the best hot chocolate in Paris?
Ah … this question is quite controversial, and we have found that most everyone has an opinion. This topic has been hotly debated online, in guidebooks, among visitors and the French themselves. There seems to be as much controversy around who provides the best chocolat chaud as there is around where to find the best Parisian macaron or the perfect baguette.
So, dear readers, we sent a team of tasters out into the streets of Paris for you! Their great challenge (lucky them!) was to sample and critique four of the most famous hot chocolate venues in Paris. Over the next few weeks we'll share the reviews and professional judgments from our chocolate loving tasters here on the Paris Perfect Blog. Be sure to bookmark these pages so you can conduct your own hot chocolate challenge on your next trip to Paris!
The Great Hot Chocolate Challenge – Part 1: Café de Flore
Our team of four taste testers accepted the challenge with great moral probity, and devised a grading scale based on 5 vital metrics: density, sweetness, presentation, ambience and service. Each metric was given a score of 1-5, with 5 being the highest. Here is the first dispatch written by Mary Ann from one of the most iconic cafés in Paris.
Our first stop was at the renowned Café de Flore on Boulevard Saint-Germain, located in the 6th arrondissement. Café de Flore is one of the most famous cafés in the world, dating from 1887, and was popular with famous authors, painters and literati such as Apollinaire, Picasso, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Simone Signoret, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote and Albert Camus.
Café de Flore is a quintessential French café in the Art Deco style, with red banquettes, mahogany tables and mirrored walls. Waiters are crisp, in black vests and bow ties, with long white aprons and the obligatory white cloth draped over one arm. We arrived mid-afternoon, and while it was fairly crowded we were seated right away. Our waiter was extremely friendly, and knew instantly what we wanted. While Zagat warns that Café de Flore is overrun with tourists, we found a lively mix of locals and tourists alike.
The service was very prompt and accommodating, and the waiter was uncharacteristically amiable, offering to take photos of us and bring us “une carafe d’eau.”
Our hot chocolate arrived tout de suite delivered with a lovely presentation in individual silver tea pots filled with aromatic hot chocolate along with parfait glasses filled with sweet, whipped cream. The chocolate was steaming hot, sweet and creamy, and although at the time we considered it thick, we were later to discover it was a bit on the thin side. The chocolate flavor was rich and true – not too bitter, not too sweet. We all agreed that the hot chocolate was delicious and a perfect afternoon pick-me-up from shopping and sightseeing. Here's how the hot chocolate from Café de Flore scored for our taste testers.
Café de Flore Scoring
Café de Flore is ideally located in the 6th arrondissement, surrounded by top Paris sights and great shopping. Next door, across Rue St. Benoit you will find the venerable café Les Deux Magots, and across Boulevard St. Germain is Brasserie Lipp, two more famous cafés in the 6th. The lovely church down the street is the Eglise St. Germain de Prés. Shopping in this area is wonderful, and just to the south and west, you’ll find Le Bon Marché and the Sévres Babylone area. Other interesting sights in the area are St. Sulpice church, Luxembourg Gardens, and the Raspail Organic market, held on Sundays from approximate 8:00 – 2:00 pm.
Café de Flore
172 Boulevard Saint-Germain
Open every day from 7am to 2am
Metro stop: St-Germain-de-Prés
Stay tuned over the coming weeks for the continuation of Paris Perfect's Hot Chocolate Challenge and more reviews from top cafés around Paris. Of course, we want your feedback too! What is your favorite spot for hot chocolate in Paris?
Photo credits: Cafe de Flore by auystety