a salute to Palette de Bine of Mont Tremblant, Quebec
I doubt there is anyone who is more true to the (cocoa) bean, more respectful of cacao, or more passionate about the creation of fine artisanal chocolate than Christine Blais of Palette de Bine. And it is for her commitment to excellence and the sustainability of craft chocolate, that I chose to salute this multi-award winning master of chocolate on October 1st, the day annually celebrated as World Cocoa and Chocolate Day.
palette de bine of mont tremblant, quebec, makes pure and delicious chocolate
Christine Blais is an architect by profession; a chocolate maker by passion. I visited her in her tiny chocolate kitchen and shop in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, earlier this year, and was so glad I made the trip–especially in view of news you will read at the end of the post.
Mont Tremblant is a scenic 90-minute drive from Montreal’s international airport, and normally, I would have doddled my way along taking pictures. But it was pouring rain for the entire journey, so I quickly made my way to this tiny piece of chocolate heaven and learned much in my two-hour visit.
Christine works with cocoa beans from 6-8 origins at any given point in time. At the time of my visit, she had beans on hand from Tanzania, two different Guatemala farms, Peru, Bolivia, Belize, and Haiti. Christine looks for the opportunity to work with women in the world of cocoa, and is happy to be working with a new women’s cocoa cooperative in Haiti that has 1,500 farmers participating in the program.
When Palette de Bine won an international award for its Haitian bar, it really helped raise the profile of Haitian cocoa beans among the chocolate community, and in turn has helped the Haitian cocoa farmers and the economy of the country. “Sustainability is the key component to what we do,” says Christine. “We use only organic beans, and if I can’t see the faces of my farmers, I will not buy the beans.”
What is really different about the chocolate making process at Palette de Bine is that after the cocoa has been roasted, winnowed, and refined in a melanger, Christine adds either locally produced maple sugar or organic cane sugar from Paraguay, forms the chocolate into large blocks, and then ages them for at least two weeks.
“Aging the chocolate helps reduce the astringency of the chocolate and cool down the acidity,” explains Christine. As beans from different origins have distinctly different flavour notes, the labour-intensive process for each origin differs. The result is that each bar you experience at Palette de Bine sings with its own unique flavour. As Christine is largely a Purist in the way she creates her chocolate (those who have read volume I of Chocolatour will recall that I tried to categorize chocolatiers and chocolate makers according to their prevalent style), all the ingredients in Palette de Bine products are pure and true to the bean, dairy-free, nut-free, soya-feee, and vegan.
The 70% Maple Bar (Bines L’erable) and the 70% Balsam Fir Bar (Sapin) feature local ingredients and offer unique flavours that enhance, not overpower, the cacao. The wood grain seen on the chocolate bars is the same wood grain seen on (some of) the thin cardboard packaging that features eco-friendly ink.
If you love pure, handcrafted dark chocolate, do look up Palette de Bine. Christine is definitely one of the best and most dedicated chocolate makers in Canada, and one of the finest in all the world. This page lists places you can purchase the bars around the world. Happy World Cocoa and Chocolate Day to Christine Blais, everyone involved in growing and making sustainable cocoa, and to every chocolate lover on the planet.
My thanks to Tourisme Quebec for helping facilitate my media visit to Mont Tremblant, a beautiful alpine skiing region named after the Laurentian Mountains.
a new challenge for palette de bine
Editorial update: On October 3, 2017, the Palette de Bine chocolate shop and kitchen in Mont Tremblant burned to the ground. Please send prayers and thoughts of strength to Christine as she rebuilds her beautiful world of chocolate. I will update this post when she is up and running again.