Best chocolates in Belgium
Belgium is known for many things, but if there is one that most people think of when you name this country, it is chocolate. Although it seems incredible, since Europe is not a cocoa-producing continent. Belgium has a very important tradition in relation to the production of this product, and in many cases some chocolatiers reach near perfection in execution.
A little history..
Cocoa, as we all know, arrived in Europe thanks to Spain in the 16th century, but it did not arrive in a solid way, but as a very little sweet and quite bitter drink. Moreover, at first it was not such a precious commodity by the conquerors, but, as they saw that the Aztecs used them as a bargaining chip, they thought that it might have some value.
To the Spanish Netherlands, present-day Belgium, was part of them, cocoa arrived very early, in the middle of the 17th century at the port of Antwerp. In the same century, although not in Belgium, the first bonbon in history was made.
This fact has many legends, but the most widespread is that it was made in the court of Louis XIV, the sun king, and that when the monarch tasted them he said “bon bon”, which in French means “good, good” , and hence the name of this delicacy.
The chocolates arrive in Belgium
The first chocolate shop in Belgium was not a chocolate shop as such, but an apothecary. Jean Neuhaus, who was a Swiss, arrived in Brussels in the mid-19th century and decided to open his pharmacy in the Royal Galleries.
I don’t know exactly why, but Neuhaus decided to coat his bars with chocolate, and the sale of these bars began to increase. From that moment, that old pharmacy began to become the first chocolate shop in the country.
However, the Neuhaus family is not only important because of this fact, but because they are the inventors of the Belgian praline. The grandson of the first of the Neuhaus in 1912 was the first chocolatier to create that piece of dried fruit covered in chocolate.
It is always said that Belgian chocolate is one of the best in the world, and one wonders why this is. And it is not because the Belgians say it without further ado, but because Belgian chocolate has a series of qualities that others do not.
The main characteristics of chocolate in Belgium that make it different from the rest of other industries are the following:
- The quality of the bean is excellent, since the chocolatiers choose the cocoa at the best time and many of them make expeditions to the cocoa plantations to choose exclusively the cocoa that they want to use annually in their production.
- Cocoa is ground to a measure between 15 to 12 microns. This is very important to understand the fineness of the cocoa, since at this measure it is very difficult for the taste buds to detect any trace.
- Minimum amount of cocoa, set by the WHO, is 35% dry matter, but the normal thing is that in Belgium it is higher, since it is usually a minimum of 43% cocoa.
Typical products in Belgium
The chocolate industry in Belgium is so extensive that many types of products are made with cocoa beyond the typical bonbon or truffle:
- Praliné – in Belgium it is a bonbon filled with many products, which can be: almonds, liqueur, chocolate, …
- Manon – famous white chocolate filled with fresh cream and flavored with coffee, with a walnut on top.
- Cat tongues – typical of one of the most exclusive chocolate shops in the country, Mary, are a type of elongated chocolate, shaped like a cat.
- Gayette (www.gayettes.be) – is a kind of truffle filled with buttercream and milk chocolate, coated with crunchy sugar and lightly flavored with coffee. Its peculiarity is that the outer layer has a color like that of coal, since this product was created in the area of the mines of Wallonia as a tribute to all those miners.
- Orangettes – candied orange sticks coated in chocolate.
- Mendiant – chocolate disc, which can be black, milk or white, with four nuts and one caramelized fruit on top.
Where to buy chocolate
Belgium is a country that loves chocolate and the best proof of this is that in this country there are an estimated 500 master chocolatiers and more than 2000 establishments dedicated to this product. So the answer to which is the best, here is quite complicated.
- Laurent Gerbaud (www.chocolatsgerbaud.be) – has his chocolate shop near the Mount of Arts. Artisan chocolatier, who in the same place will be able to taste a drink while having a praline.
- Benoit Nihant (www.benoitnihant.be) – master chocolatier from Liège, who has four chocolate shops in the country, three in Liège and one in Brussels, is one of the few chocolatiers who “goes from tree to mouth”, since who has his own plantation in Peru.
- The Chocolate Line (www.thechocolateline.be) – his master chocolatier, Dominique Persoone, is a transgressor who has revolutionized the world of cocoa by mixing new flavors and shapes not previously imagined. He has two chocolate shops, one in Antwerp and one in Bruges.
- Pierre Marcolini – elected in 2020 as the best pastry chef in the world, has several stores in different cities of the country such as Brussels, Ghent or Leuven. He makes his products with the grain that he carefully chooses on each of his expeditions.