Why is Belgian Chocolate considered THE BEST in the world?

You can’t really go and visit Belgium without going to a chocolate shop. And really, there’s no reason why you won’t, nor why you can’t get your hands on these delicious treats. Because there are more than 2,000 shops throughout the country. But why consider buying Belgian chocolates in the first place? What makes Belgian chocolates different from other brands? Let’s see why…

What Makes Belgian Chocolate Unique?

There are few valid reasons for the Belgian chocolates uniqueness that makes Belgium one of the top countries for chocoholics.

Belgium’s tradition of producing chocolates by hand is a longstanding reason but maybe are not well-known around the world. Up to this day, a significant number of chocolate firms in Belgium still produce chocolates by hand, without the aid of modern production equipment.

Its high quality production process leads the country’s chocolate industry to adhere to a more traditional manufacturing techniques. For example, each chocolate praline is cooled at the end of the production process, which allows it to hold onto more of its aroma.

But not only that, the ingredients used plays a huge part in making Belgian chocolates one of the best in the world.

Since 1884, the composition of Belgian chocolate has been regulated by law. This is to ensure the purity of the chocolate itself and to prevent the use of low-quality fat from outside sources.

The Belgian law mandates that a minimum of 35% pure cocoa must be used in all it’s chocolate production. This includes a ban on using artificial oil, such as vegetable or palm oil-based fats in all products that carry a real “Belgian chocolate” label.

These factors do really make Belgian chocolate a little more expensive and unique, but worthy of every penny! Hence, putting Belgium on the top list of countries producing good quality chocolates.

Here are the 10 characteristics that make Belgian Chocolates UNIQUE from the rest of the world:

  1. IT’S FINE STRUCTURE – Belgian chocolate is grounded very fine that it has a structure of just 15 to 18 microns. 
  2. HIGH COCOA CONTENT – Belgian chocolate has a higher cocoa content than most international products. a minimum of 25% and on average it is about 30-35% of cocoa is used.
  3. PURE COCOA BUTTER – Belgian chocolate contains 100% cocoa butter. 
  4. THE SELECTION OF BEANS – Belgian chocolatiers uses high-quality cocoa beans. 
  5. THE BELGIAN CHOCOLATE SECTOR IS VERY DIVERSE – Besides major factories such as Callebaut and Belcolade, there’s also medium-sized companies such as Godiva and Leonidas as well as lots of small chocolatiers and praline makers who spread the fame of Belgian chocolate. 
  6. BELGIAN CHOCOLATIERS ARE PARTICULARLY CREATIVE – Nowhere else in the world will you find such a great variety of new and delicious flavours and combinations. From classic pralines to bold and exotic flavours. Belgian chocolatiers are also trendsetters in their chocolate designs. 
  7. CHOCOLATES IS AN ALL-ROUND EXPERIENCE IN BELGIUM – Aside from buying chocolates, there’s also a whole series of fun experiences you can enjoy. Such as visiting a chocolate museum, try an actual tastings with chocolatiers who are passionate about their crafts, and you can participate in some workshops too, where you can design your own chocolate. 
  8. PROTECTED BY THE 2007 ‘BELGIAN CHOCOLATE CODE’ – This code ensures that the Belgian chocolate actually comes from Belgium. Because of this code, it prevents other chocolate factories around the world to put labels in their chocolates and say that it’s Belgian chocolates. In order to be called Belgian pralines, it must be hundred percent made here in Belgium. If not, it should only be labelled as ‘Made with Belgian chocolates’.
  10. BELGIUM HAS THE LARGEST CHOCOLATE FACTORY IN THE WORLD – the Barry Callebaut group produces around 270,000 tonnes from bean to chocolate every year, making him virtually the largest supplier of chocolate in the world.*

Belgian chocolates seem to be a healthier choice too because it is often free of additives as well, which means you’ve got to eat the pralines quite quickly. But that doesn’t seem to be a problem for most people, at least for me.

The History Of Praline Chocolates

Although Belgium is known for its chocolates, a lesser-known fact is where and when pralines were invented and by whom. To answer these questions we first have to make a distinction: between the origin of the candy itself and the origin of the word.

It was actually in Brussels where the first Belgian praline was first created. Thanks to a man named Jean Neuhaus (pronounced as ‘Jong Noyhaws’). According to their official website, He was a Swiss man with Italian roots. When his family arrived in Switzerland, Jean’s family changed their family name from Casanova (Latin word for a ‘new house’)  to Neuhaus (‘new house’ in German).

As a young man, Jean Neuhaus wanted to become a doctor to help other people. So he went to Grenoble, France to study medicine. But sadly, he failed twice. Mainly because he couldn’t take the sight of blood. So he became a pharmacist instead.

In 1857 he moved to Brussels where he opened a pharmacy in the prestigious Gallerie de la Reine (or the Queen’s Gallery). And to delight his ailing customers, Neuhaus had the idea of coating his medicines with a fine layer of chocolate. What a brilliant idea! How I wish all medicines are still coated with chocolates up to this day!

Then in 1912, his grandson, Jean Neuhaus II, used his grandfather’s idea to invent the Belgian pralines as we know it today:

A CHOCOLATE FILLED WITH DELIGHT – and the rest is history!

Sample of Belgian Pralines
The Neuhaus Heritage Collection box

But at that time, the word ‘praline’ had actually been used for centuries already, especially to the French speakers. But it is to address another type of candy: the sugar-coated almonds. This candy was invented by a French chef Clement Jaluzot/Lassagne in 1636. The French chef works for the Duke of Praslin – César Gabriel de Choiseul. When preparing a sweet dessert for his master, he decided to dip almonds into boiling sugar. When asked what this tasty sweet was called, he named it “Praslin” – after his master’s name: the Duke of Praslin. Later on, these sugar-coated almonds became known as ‘pralines’.

Praline and Praliné – What’s The Difference?

Maybe some people don’t realize it, but there is a distinct difference between praline and praliné. Praline is made of a soft chocolate shell with a delicious filling inside like almond, hazelnut, fresh cream, and buttercream. Sometimes they use liquor, coffee, vanilla, and fruits as flavors.

Praliné on the other hand is a type of creamy filling or paste. It is made from crushed almonds, hazelnuts, or other nuts combined with boiled sugar, vanilla, and cocoa (and sometimes cocoa butter). Due to its popularity, a praliné paste can be bought in jars and can be used as a spread on sandwiches and cakes.

Top Belgian Chocolate Brands

With over 500 chocolatiers throughout the country, how will you know which ones are the best? Here are the top brands on the market today: Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini, Mary, Planète Chocolat, Galler, Corné, Godiva, Leonidas, Zaabar just to name a few. Côte d’Or is also a famous local brand and can be easily found in local grocery stores.

There are still so many varieties of chocolate brands around the country, especially in tourist places. In order to find the best ones that will suit your palate and wallet, I recommend going to chocolate shops further away from tourists or where at least fewer tourists can be found. If you are in Brussels, check out some chocolate shops in Place Stephanie, Avenue Louise, Toison d’Or, and the Sablon area. Local grocery stores also sell quite a few real Belgian chocolates for a lunch cheaper price.

Chocolate Factory Outlet

If you are staying longer, you may want to visit a chocolate outlet shop, and there are 3 places I know here in Brussels. The Leonidas Factory Outlet in Anderlecht (via Metro Line 2 & 6, Delacroix station). There’s also a Godiva Factory Outlet in Jette via the same Metro Line (2 & 6) Simonis/Elizabeth station).

My favorite place to go is the Neuhaus Factory Outlet. Although it is located on the outskirt of Brussels, it can be easily reached by local transportation. If you want to go there and enjoy a free taste, just take the Metro Line 5 direction Erasme and get down at the last station. From the terminal, it will be about 10 mins walk.

TIP: If you need to buy a good quantity of chocolates, going to an outlet shop is really worth the effort. There you can buy in bulk and for a really good price.

Neuhaus Outlet Store
Neuhaus has an outlet shop on the outskirt of Brussels
Praline choices
The Neuhaus outlet shop offers free taste
Buy 2 get 1 free
Sample Promo: If you buy 2, you get 1 for free

Did you know that Brussels Airport sells more chocolates than anywhere else in the world? It is dubbed as the largest chocolate outlet in the world, with about 1.5 kg of chocolate being sold per minute, about 2 tonnes per day. A staggering amount of about 800 tonnes per year. Belgium also exported $3.1 billion worth of chocolate, accounting for 11% of the world’s total exports.

Have you already tried the Belgian chocolates? How was your impression? I hope you were convinced too that Belgian chocolates is one of the best chocolates in the world!

*source: www.visitflanders.com

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