Is Belgian chocolate that much better? If you fancy yourself as a chocolate aficionado, Belgium is full of delectable surprises just waiting to be eaten.
I have always liked chocolate, but in Canada I wasn’t too choosy about things like brand, filling or cocoa content. Toss me some sort of Hershey bar or a box of Pot o’ Gold and I was happy.
Since moving here, I’ve changed. Eating chocolate from Belgium has turned me into a chocolate snob. There, I’ve said it. I’ve confessed.
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Best Belgian chocolate
I had always heard that Belgian chocolate was good, but before moving to Brussels, I had no idea what that actually meant.
Belgians are passionate about chocolate and not just any old chocolate will do. The secret lies in the time and care put into producing chocolate in Belgium. Belgians know that a little effort makes all the difference in creating the best chocolate.
Take for example the shops of the top Belgian chocolate brands. When you step inside, the smell of fresh chocolate almost overwhelms. Instead of seeing boxes already filled with assorted chocolates covered in plastic wrap, you see a long glass counter with piles of beautiful fresh chocolates inside that have been carefully made by hand. These chocolates don’t sit around for months on end and are always stored at the correct temperature.
Such care is often taken in the presentation, you feel as if you are admiring jewels in the cases. Indeed they are jewels — but those of an edible variety.
Belgian chocolate brands
In my opinion, the best place in Brussels to get a sense of the chocolate culture is Place du Grand Sablon. On this square, you’ll find all of the big names in Belgian chocolate brands: Neuhaus (the inventor of the praline), Godiva (whose gold box is known around the world), Pierre Marcolini (whose chocolates are avant-garde and often unusual) and — my personal favourite — Wittamer.
In contrast, it is also nice to visit the local Belgian chocolatiers, many of whom also produce incredible chocolate, often in unusual flavours — I’ve tried violet, green tea and five-spice among others.
The best Belgian chocolate shops also encourage sampling.
Whether you choose a big chocolate brand or a local shop, you can choose exactly the chocolates you want. They are carefully boxed and weighed by hand just for you. This eliminates the fights over the good flavors that often occur over a box of Canadian chocolates.
In the shops of many Belgian chocolate brands you can also indulge in other goodies: pastries, cakes, mousses and – another personal favorite — hot chocolate.
I admit, my Canadian hot chocolate was from powder in a can. I’m sure this would horrify many Belgians. Since I moved here I’ve learned how to make proper hot chocolate with dark chocolate and milk (or cream if I’m feeling extra decadent) heated on the stove.
Sure it takes a bit longer, but good Belgian chocolate is well worth the extra time and effort. The Belgians have known this secret for years.