[Belgium] The art of chocolate making

What is Belgian chocolate?


By definition, Belgian chocolate is chocolate that has been produced in Belgium. However, the actual raw materials used in the chocolate production process are typically from outside of the country.

The history of Belgian chocolate


Some quick facts about chocolate in Belgium:

  • The Spaniards introduced the cocoa beans to Belgium.
  • Chocolate was first sold as medicine. An apothecary where Jean Neuhaus sold dark chocolate at, gradually turned into a chocolaterie. Today, Neuhaus shops are all over Belgium!
  • Chocolate used to be viewed as a sign of luxury. Well-off individuals would typically use hot chocolate to impress their visitors. And in the 1700s, “chocolate houses” in Europe’s capitals served hot chocolate to wealthy aristocrats. Thank God I don’t need friends in high places to have my daily dose of hot chocolate nowadays
A photo of a cup of hot chocolate at a table
Thankfully, we don’t have to be of noble birth anymore to have a delicious cup of hot chocolate!

Did you know that Belgium produces up to 600,000 tons of chocolate per year? That’s equivalent to approximately 400 jumbo jets!


And want to know what’s equally impressive? Belgium has one of the world’s highest chocolate consumption rates at an average of six kilograms per person annually!

Belgian chocolate today


In 1844, a law was put in place to ensure high-quality Belgian chocolate production. This law states that a minimum level of 35% cocoa must be used in the production of chocolate to prevent the use of low-quality fat sources.

Curious about the signature style of Belgian chocolates? First and foremost, they are high-cocoa dark chocolates.

They are also divided into two main categories:

  • Truffles
    • Have a soft, crumbly chocolate shell filled with buttercream
  • Pralines
    • Have a hard chocolate shell with a wide range of fillings
A display filled with chocolates
Which one would you want to try first: truffles or pralines?

Attending a chocolate workshop


To get a better idea of what went into the art of chocolate making, I attended a class put on by Laurent Gerbaud in Brussels.

The class started at 11:30am, and we began by making our own chocolates. The first thing we did was to all take turns learning how to properly put melted chocolate into molds.

Learning how to properly place the melted chocolate in molds.
Learning how to properly place the melted chocolate in molds.

Then, we were spoiled with a variety of toppings we could use to decorate our delicious treats with.

A few of the dried fruit toppings that we could put on our chocolate.
Keeping my eye on the delicious dried figs and cranberries in the back!
Decorating the melted chocolate in molds with a variety of dried fruits and nuts.
Time to decorate our sweet treats with a variety of dried fruits and nuts!
Chocolate decorated with dried fruits and nuts.

As the chocolates hardened, we spent an hour tasting a series of Mr. Laurent Gerbaud’s pieces. We learned about his process and got a glimpse of his creative process as he explained about each chocolate.

Tasting 12 of chocolatier Laurent Gerbaud’s chocolates.
Chocolate that was made at the workshop. Pieces of dark chocolate with a variety of dried fruits and nuts.
The final product of our hard work! Time to dig in!

Where to find chocolate shops in Belgium


You’ll see chocolate shops everywhere.

There are over 2000 chocolatiers in Belgium!

Everywhere.

Every street, you’ll be sure to find a chocolate shop with a tempting chocolate-filled display window.

Although you’ll see many commercial chocolate brands in Belgium, don’t forget about checking out some of the independent chocolatiers – they are equally as good!

The inside of a chocolate shop. All of the walls are covered in shelves filled with chocolates.

Do you have a sweet tooth? What kind of chocolate is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below!


For more of my adventures in Belgium, check out the link here!

xx