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

Christine Blais is the knowledgeable and passionate driving force of Palette de Bine Chocolate in Mont Tremblant, Quebec.

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.

palette-de-bine

Christine’s helper Audrey-Ann prepares a block of aged chocolate for the next step in its journey to perfection.

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.

The chocolate bars at Palette de Bine are brushed with a french-made silk brush to remove any marks made when the bars are removed from the mold. Brushing also it gives the bars a satin finish.

“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.

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Locally harvested Balsam fir buds are used in the Sapin bars at Palette de Bine.

palette-de-bine

The Palette de Bine Sapin Bar features wild Bolivian chocolate infused with Balsam fir buds from Quebec. It is a work of art. Visually, and in your mouth!

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. 

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Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

64 Responses

  1. Satinka says:

    I’m impressed with Christine’s integrity: “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.” She truly understands that organic production is the only truly sustainable way to produce food. Real food. None of the faux stuff on the market these days. It takes effort to support these organic markets because the faux food is so heavily subsidized. I applaud Christine’s Chocolate-making! I also applaud you, Doreen for covering this amazing story! Bravo!

  2. Catarina says:

    It’s amazing how many dedicated chocolate professionals there are in the world. Christine is a prime example and I join in your applaud.

  3. A very interesting woman and so creative. I had no idea cocoa came from so many locations. Excellent article!!

  4. Phoenicia
    Twitter:
    says:

    A chocolate kitchen! Sigh!

    It really is interesting to understand the process of producing chocolate. We take it for granted (well I do), that I can pop to the supermarket almost anytime of day and take my pick from a huge selection. I can also see how passionate chocolate makers are about their work.

  5. What an amazing experience. So sad that I missed World Chocolate Day… but I’ll still have a bite today in honor of the occasion! Glad to see someone take such care in their craft. I bet adding the maple sugar or organic cane sugar really adds a unique flavor to the chocolate that is hard to beat.

  6. noel says:

    what a gorgeous bar, so beautiful and simple. I would love to visit and sample this

    • You are very right, Noel. I think that simplicity is one of Christine’s guiding principles in her chocolate creations. Everything she does is for the purpose of letting the natural notes of the cocoa shine through. Thx for stopping by. 🙂

  7. I was intrigued by the idea of “aged chocolate”. There seems to be as much to chocolate making as there is to cheesemaking!

  8. It’s wonderful to hear some good news coming out of Haiti for once. Thanks for telling the compelling backstory to this deeply flavourful chocolate. I’ll be heading back to The Candy Bar (Toronto) to source more of her creations.

  9. Donna Janke
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’m impressed with Christine’s dedication to quality and with her approach “if I can’t see the faces of my farmers, I will not buy the beans.” Balsam fir is an unusual addition. I’d be willing to try it.

    • Hi Donna. I’d had a Douglas Fir Truffle at SOMA chocolate maker and loved it. So I’m not supposed that I loved the Palette de Bine Sapin bar equally well. You’d be surprised how these infusions can really enhance and not overpower the real flavour of the cocoa.

  10. Doreen — thanks for the detailed explanation of how this chocolate is made. The process is so much more complex than I would have ever known. I looked at the list where you can buy the chocolate. None in Florida but there is a shop in New York, and I’ll be visiting the city at Thanksgiving. Will try to get there.

  11. I didn’t know there was a ‘World Cocoa and Chocolate Day” but what a brilliant idea! We visited several cocao farms in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Nicaragua during our time in Central America and I came away truly impressed with what it takes to go from beans to bar. Christine Blais sounds like a remarkable artisan and well worth her salute, especially for her statement “…if I can’t see the faces of my farmers, I will not buy the beans” which makes you understand her commitment to the ethical origins of cocao farming. Kudos!

  12. Wow, the chocolate bars at Palette de Bine look amazing!

  13. I love the bark look to the chocolate–it’s an appealing design. The more you write about organic chocolate and the folks making it for us, the more I seek it out everywhere I travel.

  14. Nancy
    Twitter:
    says:

    I unknowingly missed World Cocoa and Chocolate Day! As penance, I will eat even more chocolate than usual.

  15. So very shocked and saddened to learn that Christine’s chocolate shop and chocolate kitchen in Mont Tremblant burned to the ground today, October 3, 2017. Prayers that she had sufficient insurance to cover the financial loss, and emotional strength to rebuild and relaunch Palette de Bine. How very sad for Christine, for Quebec, and for the entire world of chocolate.

  16. Your posts are totally decadent — please keep them coming! But I just happened to read your reply to the comment above about Christine’s chocolate shop burning down. That’s terrible and I hope that she’ll be back making her wonderful chocolates again soon.

  17. Jo Castro
    Twitter:
    says:

    Just read your article with great interest, and thinking what an interesting lady and a fabulous product – then read your comment at the end. Oh how terrible. That’s just dreadful news. I hope that Christine has the strength and tenacity and wherewithall to get up and going again.

  18. It’s been a couple of years since I was in Mont Tremblant, but Christine’s shop sounds like it would have been worth the trip. My thoughts and prayers are with her and her team as they work to rebuild. How very sad.

  19. krista says:

    what a wonderful and interesting woman! the food alone sounds like it would be worth a trip to Quebec, I have always wanted to go! I am so terribly sorry for what happened! hopefully she gathers the strength to continue!

  20. Carol says:

    This story made me really hungry for chocolate. There should be more than one day a year dedicated to eating chocolate. It is important to buy from locals. I am so sorry to hear that her chocolate shop suffered a fire. I was hoping to visit her next year. Thanks for the great story.

  21. Dannielle
    Twitter:
    says:

    Anything involving chocolate is right up my street! This lady seems pretty cool and I love that she sticks to organic beans!

  22. Palette de Bine chocolate sounds wonderful, and producing chocolate in such a thoughtful, conscious way. Please let us know when she’s up and running again; I’m really curious to taste that maple-infused variety!

  23. Abhinav Singh
    Twitter:
    says:

    Christine’s passion for chocolate is so obvious. No wonder she is excellent at her job. I am not much of a chocolate person, but this is special. So once in a while I don’t mind hand crafted chocolates such as these. It has that quintessential personal touch.

  24. I truly did not know how much work went into chocolate until reading your post. The skill, science and artistry they need to create wonderful chocolate is truly amazing. Is the proper name for them “Chocolatier”? Also, is there a level of skill, or ranking you must earn to be called one?
    Thank you for always sharing these with us.

    • Hi William, and thanks for your interest in my world of chocolate! Professionals who make chocolate directly from cocoa beans are called chocolate makers. Those who make their own chocolates from couverture (prepared commercial bulk chocolate) are called chocolatiers. Some chocolate makers call themselves chocolatiers as the term is more well known than the term chocolate maker. To be called a Master Chocolatier or Chocolate Master, the individual would have had to have taken some specialized training and won some awards.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…a salute to Palette de Bine of Mont Tremblant, QuebecMy Profile

  25. Christine sounds like a wonderful person and chocolate maker. Her commitment to sustainable practices and real relationships with the farmers is so admirable. Wow, we were so sad to read about her tragedy. We definitely send her our best thoughts.

  26. Ami Bhat
    Twitter:
    says:

    I just love the way you cover these local chocolatiers. This one was quite interesting given her penchant for organic stuff and local produce. It does make the whole deal sweeter.

  27. Erica says:

    I love how she says that if she can’t see the actual face of the person who makes the chocolate, she won’t buy. We rarely see that anymore because food production has become so industrialized. And it makes me feel so much better about buying a product. And of course, in my world organic is also good too! It seems like she makes a really good chocolate product. I would love to go to Quebec. So if I get there, I’ll check her out.

  28. What a sad end to your story, but with such passion, I’m sure Christine will rise from the ashes. I’m glad you’ll keep us posted. Chocolate is far more complicated than most people know, and I learn something new about the process every time I visit Chocolatour.

  29. neha
    Twitter:
    says:

    It is so impressive. Christine and her journey is quiet inspiring. And once again she proves, follow your passion with true heart and then you will be able to succeed. Mastering chocolate is a hard work, and I really admire her for it

  30. Sandy N Vyjay
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hand crafted Dark chocolate is a personal favourite. It is really fascinating to see the passion of Christine for her craft. The Palette-De-Bine has definitely raised chocolate making to a fine art.

  31. So sad to read that her store has burned down. Hopefully she can rebuild soon because it all sounds amazing!

  32. Mehedi Hasan
    Twitter:
    says:

    It’s wonderful to hear some good news coming out of Haiti for once. Thanks for telling the compelling backstory to this deeply flavourful chocolate. I’ll be heading back to The Candy Bar (Toronto) to source more of her creations.

  33. This really seems like a unique experience, Doreen! Thanks for sharing!

  34. Mehedi Hasan
    Twitter:
    says:

    I unknowingly missed World Cocoa and Chocolate Day! As penance, I will eat even more chocolate than usual.

  35. sanchez says:

    We rarely see that anymore because food production has become so industrialized. And it makes me feel so much better about buying a product. And of course, in my world organic is also good too! It seems like she makes a really good chocolate product. I would love to go to Quebec. So if I get there, I’ll check her out.Thank you for sharing
    Have a nice day!

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