A Visit to the Best Belgian Chocolate Shops

Print Friendly

Shopping Anyone?

Second in our series of chocolate shops around the world, we focus our attention today on the great chocolatiers and their shops in Belgium.  So how did Belgium and chocolate develop this enduring relationship?  The story of  Belgian chocolate goes back centuries.

The History

Belgium was introduced to the cocoa bean during the 17th century when the nation was ruled by Spain (whose explorers discovered the fruit in South America). Chocolate was first enjoyed as a drink rather than as a food and nowhere was there a more regal place to enjoy a drink of the dark mixture than in the beautiful Grand Place.

That’s just where many a royal, artist and others of nobility experienced their first taste of chocolate. In fact, in 1697, Henri Escher, mayor of Zurich, Switzerland was so enthusiastic about the chocolate drink he experienced in Brussels that he introduced the idea to Switzerland. Ironically, today, Swiss chocolate is a primary competitor of Belgian chocolate (and the third highest per capita consumer of chocolate).

Belgium’s love affair with chocolate sent the country on a quest to find its own supply. That supply was found in Africa by King Leopold II who colonized the Congo (hence the name ‘Belgian Congo’) in 1885. Unfortunately, Leopold abused the Congolese people and took advantage of their vast cocao tree fields, giving the nation an unlimited supply of the cocao beans. So as some say, some of the history of Belgian chocolate is not so sweet.

Belgium’s first chocolate shop, Neuhaus, opened in Brussels in 1857 and still exists. Neuhaus’ grandson is credited with inventing the praline — in 1912 he filled an empty chocolate shell with sweet substances , and so a Belgian institution was born.

Best of the Best

Today, the glory of touring Belgium’s chocolate shops lies in sampling the many different flavor combinations that result from chocolatiers creativity. Belgium produces 172,000 tons of chocolate per year with 2,000 chocolate shops, so culinary travelers, pack your sweet tooth! Here in no specific order, are ten of the best shops in Belgium.

Leonidas

Although Leonidas is well-known as a Belgian chocolate company, Leonidas Kestekides was actually Greek. He started making his candies and confections in New York in the early 1900s, and after attending the World Fair in Brussels in 1910, and Ghent in 1913, decided to stay in Belgium.  Today, Leonidas has over 1,400 outlets across the world.

www.leonidas.com

Godiva

Godiva Chocolatier was founded 80 years ago in Brussels, by master chocolatier Joseph Draps founded a chocolate company that was named in honor of the legend of Lady Godiva.  Godiva Chocolatier owns and operates more than 450 boutiques and shops worldwide where consumers can find a comprehensive selection of Godiva offerings. Godiva products are also available at finer department and specialty stores.

www.godiva.com

Pierre Marcolini

Belgian, Pierre Marcolini, opened his first store in Brussels in 1995, the same year he was named the World Champion of Pastry. A decade later we can find Pierre Marcolini outlets in Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, and Kuwait as well as numerous ones in Belgium. In his chocolates we find not only more unusual fruit, such as apple, pear, black current and melon but also ingredients such as pepper, chestnut, tonka beans and even patchouli, sandalwood and oak.

www.marcolini.be

Neuhaus Chocolates

Neuhaus is where the praline got its start, and Brussels is where it all happened, when Jean Neuhaus opened his chocolate shop at Galerie de la Reine in Brussels in 1895. Neuhaus was also the innovator of the ballotin box.  Neuhaus Chocolates now an international brand, but you can still visit Neuhaus at eight locations throughout Brussels.

www.neuhaus-chocolates.com

Dumon Chocolatier

Stefan Dumon and his small family business consisting of just six have won several awards for their amazing confectionery.  Having spent most of his life surrounded by chocolate, his unique flavors and designs are hand-made.  As a result, he is only able to supply a small amount of stores in Belgium.

www.chocolatierdumon.be

The Chocolate Line

Dominique Persoone is Belgium’s most audacious chocolate maker, a self-styled “Shock-o-latier” who has shaken up the kingdom’s delicious but tradition-bound world of pralines, cream-filled manons and cognac truffles, by stuffing bite-sized parcels of the finest chocolate with the likes of tobacco leaves, wasabi or fried onions. He founded The Chocolate Line in 1992.

 www.thechocolateline.be

Del Rey

First opening shortly after World War II, Del Rey was at first purely a chocolate maker and has now expanded to become a specialist shop offering chocolates, cakes, confectionery and ice cream. Considered one of the top chocolatiers in the world, they operate one store in Belgium, and have recently expanded into Japan.

www.delrey.be

Galler

Jean Galler began his formal career in chocolate at the age of 21.  Today, his team of more than 100 employees create pralines, ice-creams, chocolate pastries, filled chocolate bars, as well as chocolate tablets, and Cat’s tongues (cartoon cats molded from chocolate). Galler operates a network of stores in Belgium, France, Luxemburg, Japan, Lebanon, the United States, United Arab Emirates and England.

www.galler.com

Planète Chocolat

Planète Chocolat is more than just a small candy shop — here, you’ll find chocolate of all kinds, chocolate-related gifts, and chocolate-making equipment including molds. The store offers demonstrations on the weekends, and also has a tea room for sit-down treats. For an even more distinctively Belgian treat, sample a praline filled with speculoo ganache–a spicy cookie which hails from Belgium and North France.

www.planetechocolat.be

Wittamer

Together, brother and sister Paul and Myriam Wittamer run one of the great Belgian chocolate houses, Wittamer.  Different from other Belgian chocolate shops, Wittamer serves not only sweets but also savories—a good break from a day of tasting sweets.  Wittamer is the Official Supplier to the Court of Belgium.

www.wittamer.com

Tags: ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply