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Tab Gianduja

Home / History

Debauve and Gallais, appointed chocolate maker of the former Kings of France, was founded in 1800 by Sulpice Debauve, pharmacist of the King Louis XVI, and its nephew, Antoine Gallais, author of the Cocoa Monograph. It is today the oldest and the most prestigious Chocolates House in Paris. Its history starts well before that of the industrialists of the chocolate and it puts its roots deep in this rich substratum of brilliant craftsmen which in XVIIIème century founded the tradition of the black chocolate so specific to France. Debauve and Gallais want to be the protector of the Temple.
Therefore our contribution was unique and we do our utmost to carry on preserving it with new creations.

The history of our House is as long as rich. Therefore we choose to recall here only that of the foundation by the two Founding Fathers, end of the Age of Enlightenment scientists in love with the taste whose achievements raised the enthusiasm of their contemporaries: Sulpice Debauve and Auguste Gallais.

The Founding Fathers, DEBAUVE and GALLAIS: Two Chocolate Lovers with Imagination.

The oldest ads claiming the merit of Debauve & Gallais chocolates, indicate that Sulpice Debauve is a "former chemist approved by his Majesty Louis XVI", but more than that, "His Majesty Charles X's chocolate maker". In those times, an establishment approved by the King's house was the best guaranties of quality. A quality the kings loved and appreciated, especially the Bourbons, starting with Louis XIII who first tasted chocolate thanks to Spain's Infanta, Anne of Austria, and Philippe III's daughter who quickly made it a trend at the King's court.

In 1800, eight years before the continental Blockade which will bring a rise of the prices on the French market and will see the closing down of many chocolate makers, Sulpice Debauve, born December 6th 1759 and married to Catherine Duchemin, opens up his first chocolate shop on the left bank of Paris, at 4 Faubourg Saint-Germain, "near Saint-Guillaume street, across Saint-Dominique street". The first Parisian chocolate maker of this kind would have appeared around 1670.

He abandons so his Saint-Germain-en-Laye pharmacy. He's a "bright and well learned man, whose medical knowledge matches his talents in his new found direction in which he will encounter many rivals", Grimod de la Reynière wrote ten years later.
That is when Sulpice Debauve chooses his motto: "Utile Dulci"; which he borrows from Horatio in order to engrave it on the front of his chocolate shop. A shop he calls "A la Renommée des chocolats de France".

This bulimic chocolate shopkeeper keeps some sensibilities from his former career as a chemist and decides to adorn his new shop with the half moon shaped wood counter, known to decorate the beautiful drugstores of these days. Percier and Fontaine, Napoleon's architects who designed the Malmaison, create beyond the facade a warm décor, made of antic marble columns adding beautifully to the half moon counter.

Sulpice Debauve had most probably read the findings of doctor Stephanius Blancardius from Amsterdam who, almost a century ago in 1705, maintained: "Chocolate is not only pleasurable to the taste, but truly is a balm for the mouth, keeping glands and mucous membranes healthy. That is why the ones who drink it have such sweet breath". A doctor who recommends chocolate consumption as a therapy must have very much pleased our chemist / chocolate maker, especially when he said: "Eat, eat chocolate as it loosens the cough that shakes like a fury your entire body. It softens the ills better yet than any other syrup. Come and have some if our digestion is difficult. You will recover your strength in no time, and your winter will turn into a green spring..."

In 1804, Grimod de la Reynière, in his Almanach for good eaters will write to Debauve: "We cannot here cover all the chocolates this skilled makers creates, as he has made some according to the Spanish, Piedmont and Italian's methods, so much so that Madrid, Florence, Genoa, and Turin hold hands in his shop, and compete with Bayonne for the honors of being the place where the best chocolate comes from. But we shall speak only of his analeptic chocolate, made with Persian salep..."

Quickly, Debauve is appointed King Louis XVIII's supplier - then Charles X's and finally Louis Philippe's. The chocolate maker's reputation reaches all corners of Europe, in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and England, where chocolate increases in popularity, even though each one likes to cultivate their own speciality born out of their tradition.

In Le Figaro, one can read a vibrant article on Mr. Debauve's chocolate saying: "Thirty years ago in France, chocolate was nothing more than breakfast for old people; it has become analeptic chocolate made out of Persian salep, created by Mr. Debauve; it is all together light and nutritional; it is suitable to people of weak constitution, delicate lungs, or to people who have chronic illness or nervous stomachs".

In his Monographie du Cacao, A. Gallais informs his reader in more details on the healing benefits of chocolate: "Salep is nothing more than a dried up root of some type of orchy that grows wild in the middle of Persian woods and fields. The roots of the orchys morio, mascula, and bifolia are generally mostly used. Salep is considered in Persia and in all of Orient as an aphrodisiac". In Debauve's days, salep was used in meals, in the Orient with musk, amber and cardamom. Then Mr. Gallais quotes doctor Loiseleur Deslongchamps, author of Dictionnaires des sciences naturelles: "Salep is one of the vegetable substances the most nutritional; we prescribe it with success in cases of chronic illness with great exhaustion; it is very pleasant mixed with chocolate which makes it more delicate".

That same year in 1804, Debauve opens no less than sixty five new shops all over France, similar to today's franchises. He also launches a shop on the right bank of Paris, at the Palais du Tribunal, near the Théâtre Français, he calls "Galerie Noire", then at the optician's, Mr. Rochette, located 114 galerie de Pierre, also known as "des Bons Enfants", still at the Palais Royal. Two other shops open up rue de la Paix and Faubourg Poissonnière, before the ones in Chartres, Dreux, Rambouillet, Dunkerque, Lille, Cambrais and Nîmes. Mail order and subscription sales increase in popularity, and chocolates are dispatched by horse and carriage. In 1810, Grimod de la Reynière writes a vibrant portrait of Debauve in which he explains to his readers that there are no less than "sixty three shops throughout the French Empire's principal cities, as well as throughout allied countries", and continues to say this success is due to "the owner's enlightenment, talent, zeal, and activity - or rather to the owner's friendly, noble and discriminating diplomacy, a success such that Mr. Debauve's name has outshined all other chocolate makers". Grimod de la Reynière ended his article demanding new shops to be created: "I demand he opens up new shops in each city or town regardless of its size, so everyone can enjoy the medicinal and sensual benefits of the best chocolates known to date".

In 1818, Debauve moves his main shop 26 rue des Saints-Pères, staying faithful to the faubourg Saint Germain.In 1819 for the first time and again in 1823 Debauve wins the first "Mention Honorable" awarded on the french chocolate industry. In 1823, he takes in his nephew A. Gallais, also a chemist, as an associate in order to create and distribute his dietary chocolates, - known then as "health chocolates" - made with almond milk, vanilla and orange flowers. Gallais publishes four years later his Monographie du Cacao which becomes a milestone for chocolate lovers and experts by offering a new and scientific approach to cocoa.

Gallais is also the inventor of the Théréobrome, a cold instant chocolate, good for women, children and "people of weak constitution, sensitive to the summer heat, whose delicate palate can appreciate the sweet flavor of caraway and soconusco mixed with sugar, vanilla and almond milk". Thanks to the Théréobrome, they can now drink instant cold chocolate with milk, which becomes at once a "savory and invigorating digestive". The Debauve & Gallais establishment will set it in bottle (good for fifteen breakfasts), vanilla or almond milk flavored, priced between 3and 5 francs.

In 1829, Debauve & Gallais invent for their laboratory a new cylinder machine, made of white marble on granite, as opposed to the type of iron cylinders used by some Barcelona chocolate makers: from now on, the workers will no longer crush beans by hand. This new machine allows a more regular work, better efficiency and a perfect grind. "Cocoa's flavor and smoothness are therefore unaltered keeping all of their characteristics", as was then noted in a newspaper.

In one of its advertisements, Debauve & Gallais printed an excerpt from an article published in the newspaper Le Temps: "It is because of their medicinal characteristics that Debauve & Gallais' chocolates are unique. Prepared with unmatched care with a type of revolutionary cylinders that cannot taint the chocolates with the unpleasant taste of iron, nor its astringent quality, Debauve & Gallais' chocolates are pure, and made of carefully selected beans, making them perfect".

One can read, in yet another newspaper, a testimony signed "A subscriber", from a person convinced of the positive effects from eating regularly Debauve & Gallais' chocolates. After claiming the merits of cocoa and hot chocolate in general, this subscriber did have a reservation: "No matter what, chocolate is the only thing that can keep or make you healthy. An to be so, as well as to satisfy the most discriminating taste buds, there is only one place: Debauve & Gallais'. Their prices are however quite high, 5, 6 and even 7 francs a pound! Nevertheless, these high prices do not scare one away when one knows that their beans are so perfectly roasted and crushed, which is difficult, and that they keep all the buttery and sweet characteristics of the best cocoa, which is rare. Therefore, a small and appropriately prepared amount is sufficient for someone who doesn't like to eat too much. Women, people with poor health, and convalescents can have a pleasant and healthy meal."

In 1832, analeptic chocolate attracts doctors who prescribe it as dietary purposes, as a protection against cholera, but also to convalescents. Some doctors do not hesitate to prescribe specifically Debauve & Gallais' coins for anxiety and nervous stomachs. Others suggest replacing fruits with hot chocolate mixed with milk and water.

Price of success, Debauve & Gallais are increasingly imitated. So they create a specific label so as to give their chocolates a real quality seal and distinguish them from imitations.
One must wait until 1840, after Sulpice Debauve's death, before the company goes to the hands of a Mr. Théry who will keep on the Debauve & Gallais tradition which made it famous throughout France and Europe.

Then in 1858, Mr. Hugon takes control of the company and builds a state of the art factory, 51 avenue de Ségur with the first steam moulder.In 1867, he unveils his assortment of chocolates during the World Fair and is awarded the bronze medal. Five years later, in 1872, at a similar fair in Lyon, he receives the highest award, a gold metal.

In 1873, G. Hugon, his son, takes over. A note found in the company's archives reads as follow: "The Company has kept growing. The daily production is now up to fifteen hundred kilograms, and some new works will double it". Still true Horatio's motto "Utile Dulci" inscribed on the shop front, Mr. Hugon wants to sell his merchandise at a good price while preserving its quality to make chocolate consumption accessible to his entire goal, and he believes to have succeeded by offering a high quality chocolate for 3 francs a kilogram. We then learn that Hugon's son is awarded in 1878 a gold medal at the World Fair and a gold medal at the Anvers World Fair in 1885. The latter rewards the new company specialty: the "Chocolat Éclair", a sweet powder chocolate that mixes instantly in boiling milk or water, "without cooking".

In 1889, the officials mention the presence of Debauve & Gallais during the French industry products fair (where it is once again rewarded), praising the shops of France, Belgium and Switzerland. "We can say Mr. Debauve has paved the way for the industry which has seen such a growth in France. Therefore, in order to reward him for his efforts, the jury of the Exposition Nationale, which took place in Paris in 1819, gave him an honorable mention. Although modest, this award, being the first of its kind, was significant to the French chocolate industry. The title of patented supplier to the King, Charles X, added to the already well-deserved company's reputation".

Last but not the least, Debauve & Gallais receive a third gold medal at the 1900 Paris World Fair.

Copyright 2002 Debauve & Gallais - All rights reserved