Suffering from a chocolate addiction, I was delighted on my last trip to Johannesburg to meet the most passionate and kind-hearted Belgium chocolatier who goes by the name of Michel Sauvenier.
Originally from Elisabethville in the former Belgian Congo, Michel Sauvenier is a mining engineer turned chocolatier, who followed his passion to become a master chocolatier by using only the finest chocolate from around the world.
He is one of the only chocolatiers in South Africa to hand make his chocolates using Felchlin’s Grand Cru line from Switzerland. The pinnacle of fine chocolate, Grand Cru is Felchlin’s premium couverture brand, and it has quickly become one of the most celebrated products in the industry.
In South Africa, almost all of the chocolate that we consume is created using ‘bulk’ cocoa beans, which constitutes 90% of the cocoa beans farmed in the world (ie Lindt and Cadbury).
The fine, or ‘noble’ cocoa beans, sought-after for the exceptional flavour profiles and a silky smooth texture make up the remaining (10%) of these commercialized chocolate brands available to us.
Michel’s chocolates are created (90%) from the fine/noble families of cocoa beans, using in particular the Criollo beans (the most prized), Trinitario (a hybrid of Criollo and Forastero) and National (the only aromatic bean prevailing amongst the Forastero variety).
His favourite quote comes from Rowan Jacobsen who is an international, award-winning author writing on food, nature, place, and the intersections between: “Ninety-five percent of chocolate is made with “bulk beans”, meaning they taste like shit. If you think dark chocolate is bitter and nasty, blame the bulk beans.”
Crafted predominantly using Grand Cru Chocolate from Felchlin, Michel also creates varieties using the French premium chocolate, Valrhona, which time and time again is rated my favourite of the varieties.
Sauvenier trained in Belgium at the Chocolate Academy Centre from Callebaut in Wieze in 2010, and since then, has been creating his chocolates on a made-to-order basis online and supplying friends and family with his delectable treats.
Aside from a brief stint at Liege Café in Atholl, which has now closed, Michel struggles to find boutique outlets for his chocolates, which require storage in temperature-controlled fridges. “Everybody loves my chocolates, and everybody wants to sell them, but without the right cooling system, it will not work” he says.
Hand crafted, premium chocolate like this comes at a price, although Michel Sauvenier retails his chocolate at a very good price point in line with other ‘craft’ brands such as Honest. In this day in age I would like to assume that the market is moving towards the concept of quality and not quantity, which is why homemade, handmade and all crafted items from any industry are sold at a premium and doing extremely well.
Master Chocolatier Sauvenier produces chocolates in a rectangular gift box of ten pieces, consisting of five different varieties as well as in a beautiful glass jar with a gold lid that contains beads of Noble chocolate in dark, caramel, white and milk flavours.
My ultimate favourite of the range are his decadent and creamy chocolate truffles. At R10 a truffle, it’s pure ecstasy. Upon our first meeting he brought me a bag of 3 truffles, which enroute home on the Gautrain, I shared with him. We sat in silence, eyes closed as the chocolate melted in our mouth and we experienced a sensory explosion of flavours. The world stopped for that brief moment. The truffles can be created in Grenada 65%, Creole 49%, Caramelia 36%, Dulcey 32% and Edelweiss 36% flavour profiles. He can also infuse the truffles with top-quality whisky.
Each gourmet chocolate is expertly crafted by hand and Sauvenier ensures that only the best quality chocolate and freshest ingredients are used. No unnecessary sugar is added, which means that each piece of chocolate is the perfect balance of unique flavours and sweetness.
Every time I go to Johannesburg, I order a packet of truffles and a slab of chocolate, which I leave up to him to decide on which flavours to use. He surprises me and even packages them in a fun and quirky way: PRLAB for my company and Louis Vuitton for my handbag. It’s that attention to detail that blows me away.
Perfect for corporate gifts, gift favours, friends, weddings or hotels and special occasions.
To place orders or get in touch, contact chocolatier Michel on email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: +27 (0) 79 384 6090