Belgium is a beautiful and cultural country packed with many stories to tell, but one of its most enticing histories, is that of chocolate. Rosie Khdir Khdir takes a bite…
Chocolate, or cocoa as it was then known, was first brought to Belgium in the 17th century by the Spanish when they ruled the country. It became extremely popular throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and has since evolved into a delicacy which is enjoyed worldwide.
Belgian chocolate really began to make waves upon the arrival of a new process created by Jean Neuhaus, using a special type of chocolate called “converteur”. This chocolate was used as a shell to be filled with nougats, creams, fruits, nuts, coffee or simply more chocolate – and the praline was born.
There are more than 2,000 chocolate shops in Belgium, so how do you find the perfect chocolate? Here are a few suggestions of the best shops in country.
Burie is a family business which opened in 1964 in the heart of Antwerp and has since been making headlines. They are famous for their fabulous window displays, which has included a life size car, a tiger, a boat and even a chocolate model of the White House. The shops seasonal creations are a site to behold and their legendary Diamond Chocolates make the perfect gift.
Pierre Marcolini has a number of shops Brussels and makes many interesting and experimental delicacies including biscuits, truffles, macaroons and pralines such as the “The Earl Grey”. Pierre is apparently meticulous about choosing his raw ingredients and believes in working the way the “inventors” before him did, and continually searches for new flavours.
Del Ray is chocolatier that opened shortly after the Second World War and has been considered one the best confectioners for many years. It is now a specialist store selling cakes, beautifully decorated chocolates, ice cream and confectionary. Del Ray’s famous “tasting room” has been a hit with tourists for many years offering a light lunch or a tea time treat.
The Chocolate Line is another experience to be had, this time in Bruges. Dominique Persoone, self confessed “shock-a-latier” has taken chocolate to another level with his unique flavours including black olives and basil, peas, cola and extra virgin olive oil. Persoone can boast at having three famous chef customers, he has also worked with fellow experimental chef Heston Blumenthal and won “Best Chocolate Book” at Best in the World Gourmand, in Paris this year.
A man called Joseph Draps set up another chocolate shop in Brussels and named it Godiva after Lady Godiva. This chocolatier is famous for its rich smooth, beautiful handcrafted treats, with innovative moulds and artful packaging. The store echoes everything that Belgium is about – elegance. From the gothic architecture, to the intricate lace and fine art, Belgians have always paid attention to detail, and the same goes for their chocolate.
If you fancy yourself as the next Jean Neuhaus then why not visit the Godiva factory and try your hand at chocolate making at their workshop?
Image credit: EverJean