How Debauve et Gallais and Marie Antoinette sparked a chocolate revolution

Paris chocolatier Debauve et Gallais is built on a sweet legacy, involving a chocolate coin designed to cure Marie Antoinette of her distaste for medicine

closed and open boxes of Debauve et Gallais chocolates
Debauve et Gallais chocolate pistoles in a beribboned box, the blue-toned paper inspired by the 1783 ‘Rose’ portrait of Marie-Antoinette by Vigée Le Brun
(Image credit: Courtesy Debauve et Gallais)

Chocolate should always include a little fantasy and alchemy in the recipe, so it’s no surprise to learn that famed Parisian chocolatier Debauve et Gallais, was founded by Sulpice Debauve, a pharmacist to the court of Louis XVI, whose signature chocolate ‘pistoles’ (named after gold coins) were developed as a way of making bitter medicines more palatable for Marie-Antoinette. Knowing of her taste for drinking chocolate, Debauve mixed finely ground cocoa powder with almond milk as a disguise for the medicine, which he set in flat, coin-shaped discs, thus creating the original edible chocolate.

Debauve et Gallais’ chocolate revolution

Broken bar of Debauve et Gallais chocolate

(Image credit: Courtesy, DEBAUVE & GALLAIS)

The pistoles were a hit and, a decade after the revolution, were enjoying enough success for Debauve to open a factory and shop on the Rive Gauche in Faubourg Saint-Germain. What had been an experiment became his vocation. 

Over the next decades, Debauve supplied the courts of both Napoleon and the Bourbon kings, partnered with his nephew, Jean-Baptiste Auguste Gallais, and developed new flavours and exquisite formats that are replicated today with all the mastery and knowledge that you would expect from a 220-year old institution.

Marie Antoinette


(Image credit: Courtesy, Debauve & Gallais


Debauve et Gallais trades from two listed stores, on rue Vivienne and rue des Saints-Pères, the latter originally a townhouse designed by Napoleon’s favourite architects, Percier and Fontaine. A recent, sensitive modernisation has seen that both stores’ historic interiors remain intact while offering a contemporary customer experience.

Debauve et Gallais shop exterior signage

The shop at 30 rue des Saint-Pères was designed by Napoleon’s favourite architects, Percier and Fontaine

(Image credit: Courtesy, DEBAUVE & GALLAIS)

Debauve et Gallais continues to sell pistoles, croquamandes (chocolate-coated caramelised almonds created for Napoleon), ganaches and pralines. The pistoles are made from Venezuelan chocolate flavoured variously with almond milk, honey flakes, orange blossom, verbena and vanilla – ingredients that the brand suggests aid sleep and restore energy, as they did for Marie-Antoinette.

Staff inside Debauve et Gallais chocolate shop in Paris, seen from outside

Inside the recently renovated store at 30 rue des Saint-Pères

(Image credit: Courtesy, DEBAUVE & GALLAIS)

And, as fantasy reaches us through the eye first, the chocolates are presented in ribbon-wrapped, re-usable jewel boxes that take their colours from the 1783 ‘Rose’ portrait of Marie-Antoinette by Vigée Le Brun and are embossed with the royal arms and the words ‘fournisseur des rois de France’ (supplier to the kings of France).

Shop exterior shot

The original interior at 30 rue des Saint-Pères

(Image credit: Courtesy, DEBAUVE & GALLAIS)

James Gurney has written on watches for over 25 years, founding QP Magazine in 2003, the UK’s first home-grown watch title. In 2009, he initiated SalonQP, one of the first watch fairs to focus on the end-consumer, and is regarded as a leading horological voice contributing to news and magazine titles across the globe.