You’ve had a bad day, you are curling up with a good book, or you are tackling a challenging task at work. While these scenarios seem to have nothing in common at first glance, they all share one thing: they’d be infinitely better with chocolate!
As Gene Wilder once said, “there are two types of people in this world: people who love chocolate and liars”. So, let’s be honest: if you’re hoping to improve your day, enhance your riveting read or reward yourself for working hard, a chocolaty treat is the way to go. If you’re a true connoisseur, you’ll know that there’s good and exceptional chocolate. And only the latter will do!
While some may argue that Switzerland makes the crème de la crème of chocolate, more people are starting to gravitate towards Belgium’s tasty treats. Here are a few reasons why this small but mighty country is often considered to produce the world’s best chocolate.
Belgium’s long and enduring relationship with chocolate first began in the Middle Ages, during which the country was ruled by the Spanish Habsburgs. When conquistadores that travelled to South America tried the liquid chocolate that tribes were drinking, they were immediately hooked – and simply had to introduce this warm and velvety beverage to Spain’s European territories.
It was only in the nineteenth century, however, that this early flirtation with chocolate developed into a full-blown obsession. During this time period, Belgium gained access to the cocoa plantations in Africa (specifically in Congo, which Belgium later colonised), bringing beans back to Europe and experimenting with chocolate production techniques as early as the 1880s. This was well before any other European society began making the saccharine sensation, giving Belgium a distinct advantage over its neighbours. Today, we believe that even Switzerland adopted many practices that were first pioneered by Belgium. Who knew?
Belgium’s chocolaty fare is not only superior because they’ve had more time to develop successful production processes. Their triumph also springs from the fact that Belgians are notoriously excellent engineers. It’s not surprising, then, that they were among the first countries to develop clever contraptions for conching and refining chocolate, giving it its sought-after silky texture.
What’s more, Belgium is credited with inventing filled pralines, the delicious delicacy that revolutionised the possibilities and varieties of this sugary goodness. In 1912, the Belgian chocolatier Jean Neuhaus invented an ingenious machine that enabled him to fill pralines with various flavours, such as nougat, coffee or candied fruit. Thanks to Neuhaus and his brand, which is still popular today, we’re able to indulge in chocolate like never before. After all, no one wants to imagine what life would be like without their favourite marzipan, caramel or liqueur pralines.
From Neuhaus to Godiva to Leonidas, Belgian chocolates are the cream of the crop –figuratively and literally. While its world-class brands are available all over the world, there’s nothing quite as special as discovering its established products, as well as its up-and-coming treats, on a holiday in Belgium. Bon appe-sweet!