Argentinian Florencia Malbran came to Courchevel on a ski holiday and was mesmerised by all the beautiful shops: designer clothing, stunning décor, luxurious jewellery, fabulous flowers…
But no chocolaterie!
Florencia hails from San Carlos di Bariloche in Patagonia which is famous for two things: skiing and chocolate. Strolling down the high street you can’t help but be drawn in to one of the many chocolate shops that exist almost side-by-side.
Enchanted by the magic of chocolate since childhood, it is not surprising that Florencia immediately spotted the gap in the market for a chocolaterie in Courchevel.
A lawyer and ski instructor, she returned to Argentina and started to retrain with a family friend, a chocolate maker for over 50 years. Persuading a master chocolatier to reveal his secrets was not easy, and Florencia was certainly not renowned for her talents in the kitchen!
However her dedication and attention to detail paid off and eventually he saw that she was going to be an excellent chocolatière. The secrets came flooding forth and Piste Noire was born…
andTraining completed, the next stage was to work out the logistics. Florencia wanted to use the legendary Criollo cacao, a grand cru beans known as the ‘prince of cocoa’. These unique beans come from a tree which is native to Central and South America and are vulnerable to a variety of threats, but the beans produced are delicately flavoured with a long duration of complex secondary notes.
Florencia chose an organic supplier and collaborated with a Parisian laboratory to prepare her own unique recipe blend. After this, she set to work to source all the other organic ingredients that feature in her chocolates: almonds, cherries, pistachios, sesame, ginger, goji berries, quinoa…
Courchevel’s chocolate shop – ‘Piste Noire’ – stocks around 40-50 different flavours each day and 160 are on display every week.
Working in a small laboratory in Bozel, in the valley below Courchevel, Florencia works late at night to make the chocolates by hand.
“I produce the chocolates in small quantities so that they’re always at their freshest in the shop. I find that the flavour is at its most pronounced when the chocolate is fresh, so ideally customers should eat their chocolate straight away! But if they’re taking home a selection for family and friends then of course they will keep for a month or so, but they don’t contain any preservatives.”
The hand cut squares and rectangles are quite different to the dainty, moulded shapes that you’ll find in most French chocolateries. These simple shapes are in the Argentinian style and Florencia prefers not to overwork the chocolate and to let the flavours speak for themselves.
Another nod to her native origins is the home made Dulce de Leche. Popular across South America, this unctuous treat is made from sweetened milk and tastes a little like fudge or caramel.
In December 2011, Florencia opened the doors to Courchevel’s.
A feast for the senses: the aroma of chocolate as you step inside is intensely comforting, and the displays look so beautiful and colourful that you are greedily drawn to it. But indulging in a little chocolate every now and then is no bad thing, Florencia explains:
“The fruit of the cocoa tree has many virtues, being full of flavonoids which act as antioxidants and serotonin, so it’s good for your heart and your happiness!”