In terms of chocolate, the reputation of this country’s specialty is already well established. A couple hundred grams of chocolate is an essential point on every Asian tourist’s check list.
Americans are attracted by the inherent “European touch” that is found in the presentation and composition. As for us, we are simply crazy about it for every occasion – we don’t miss an occasion to buy it for ourselves or for others.
However, the history of chocolate begins with a Spaniard. In 1492, Columbus sails the ocean blue. And on his way to the Americas, he discovers not only the New World and potatoes, but also chocolate! His first encounters were not so pretty; the sweetness of chocolate had not yet been revealed to the world and the conquistadors only saw one type of currency to exchange for gold.
Cocoa beans will then touch down on the Spanish Netherlands through the port of Antwerp and will remain a luxury item for royal families and aristocrats. Over time, the product became more accessible.
Since then, Belgian chocolate has continued to solidify its reputation, becoming a true institution. A perfect alchemy of quality ingredients, roasting and grinding, ratio of cocoa beans and savoir-faire. For the grinding and the ratio of cocoa, Belgian chocolatiers are very particular. The grinding process in Belgium is effectuated with precision to ensure the percentage of cocoa reaches 43% instead of only 35% that is usually obtained in chocolate making.
...and chocolate makers
Belgium is still in the very first decades of her existence when the chocolate industry was rapidly developing. At the end of the 19th century, the colonization of the Congo was a reason for even faster progression of chocolate. It turns out, the cocoa beans grown in Africa are tastier than those coming from the Americas. Belgian chocolate had an upper hand.
In addition to the beans from Africa or America, all that was left was the skills of artisans. In 1857, Jean Neuhaus opened his pharmacy in Brussels. To cover up the sometimes bitter taste of his medicines, he had the bright idea to cover them in chocolate. Voila, the basic principles of the praline had been established. Callebaut, Côte d’Or, Chocolat Jacques, Léonidas and Wittamer came into play before World War I. After the war, Godiva and Corné Port Royal joined the others.
Finally, the most recent generation of chocolatiers started up in the last decades. Marcolini, the world champion of pastries. New Tree and their top quality bars. Jean-Philippe Darcis and Jean Galler also came onto the scene from the province of Liege to win over the capital.
Today, the universe of Belgian chocolate centers revolves around the Grand Sablon. Chocolate makers of all kinds compete with ingenuity… and their window displays are scrutinized just as much as their neighbors in fashion and décor.
Photo credit : Flickr - CC-BY-NC-SA by Su-lin
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