What’s your favorite Belgian chocolate? Too many to choose from, right? And each of them, heavenly to the last bite. Belgium is known all over the world for making unbeatable chocolates. It is paradise for the chocolate lovers. The country has a long and illustrious history of chocolate making. Learn more about this great Belgian legacy in seven fun facts.
1. The Belgian chocolate industry is almost 400 years old.
In the 17th century, the territories that would eventually comprise the Belgian nation were occupied by the Spaniards. The conquistadores brought cocoa beans to Europe from their Central and South American colonies. According to the Flanders Tourism Office, the first recorded purchase of chocolates in Belgium was made by the abbot of Baudeloo Abbey in Ghent in the year 1635. Back then, chocolates were sold as medicine. The abbey monks purportedly used them as gifts.
2. Pralines were invented in Belgium in 1912 by… surprise, surprise… a Swiss guy.
Switzerland is one of Belgium’s fiercest rivals when it comes to chocolate production. But ironically, praline chocolates which catapulted Belgium into choco stardom in 1912 were the invention of Swiss migrant, Jean Neuhaus II. He was the first to engineer a way of making chocolate shells filled with deliciously flavoured creams. These confections came to be known worldwide as pralines. Years later, Neuhaus’ wife designed the ballotin, the traditional box for packaging Neuhaus chocolates.
3. Belgium can produce up to 600,000 tons of chocolate a year.
With around 2,000 chocolate companies and shops all over Belgium, the country remains one of the reigning producers and exporters of chocolate in the world. Based on available figures, Belgium exports more than 400,000 tons of chocolate with an annual turnover of over 4 billion euros.
4. Belgians are some of the world’s biggest consumers of chocolate.
Not all Belgian chocolates are shipped to other countries. Huge chunks of them also end up in Belgian stomachs. Belgium has one of the world’s highest chocolate consumption rates at an average of six kilograms per person annually. Coming from the land of chocolate masters, Belgians can definitely afford to have their chocolate and eat it too.
5. The top seller of chocolates in Belgium is… drum roll… the Brussels Airport.
That’s right. It’s not your favorite, often crowded chocolate store in the city or in your neighborhood. The Brussels Airport sells about 800 tons of chocolate per year, with an estimated two tons sold per day. The airport’s Belgian Chocolate House offers the finest brands of chocolate in Belgium.
6. Belgium owns the world’s biggest chocolate factory.
And it’s located in the village of Wieze in East Flanders. The factory is owned by the Barry Callebaut group which produces around 270,000 tones of chocolate per year.
7. Belgian chocolate makers still use 100% cocoa butter.
And this is what makes Belgian chocolate an international champion. Other chocolate manufacturers often substitute cocoa butter with other types of vegetable fats. But the replacement affects the taste of the chocolate and reduces the overall quality of the product. A definite no-no for the Belgians.
To celebrate the glories of Belgian chocolate, Brussels is hosting the Salon du Chocolat from March 2 to 4 at Tour & Taxis. This is the fifth year Brussels is organizing the event which brings together hundreds of chocolatiers, confectioners, and cocoa experts from Belgium and other countries. Get to know the latest chocolate trends, and treat your taste buds to the richness and magic of cocoa at Salon du Chocolat.