Europe first became acquainted with the famous cocoa bean back in 1502, 10 years after Christopher Columbus landed in America.
At this point, nobody was yet aware of the paramount importance it would take on in international trade. At the time, cocoa beans were used as means of payment. Twenty six years later, Cortés, the Spanish conqueror, returned to Spain with a cargo of beans, processing equipment and the recipe for making chocolate, but it was not until 1580 that the first chocolate factory was created on Iberian soil. At that time, chocolate was essentially transformed into a beverage. From the 18th century onwards, industrialisation made it possible to process the chocolate at a larger scale, making it more widely affordable. The inventiveness of chocolate makers all over the world did the rest. Chocolate became more than just a hot drink.
In Brussels, it all began in 1912 with Belgian chocolate maker Jean Neuhaus. It was under the arches of the Galeries Royales Saint Hubert that this craftsman invented the famous praline: a roasted almond or hazelnut coated in chocolate. These small bites brought fame and glory to the Neuhaus family and, by popular demand, endless new varieties were created.
In 1915, its success was such that it became necessary to create a specific package to contain customer orders: the “ballotin”. This small cardboard box allows chocolate makers to place the chocolates on top of each other without crushing them and means that customers can give them as a beautifully presented gift. Pralines are a gift that Belgians are very proud to present on all manner of occasions.
These individually filled chocolates have played an essential role in making Belgium an internationally renowned chocolate specialist. The essential collection is undoubtedly made up of the manon, the orangettes and chocolate filled with ganache, gianduja, liqueur or simply praline flavoured. Although most of these great classics can be found in all the shops, each master chocolate maker has developed its own recipe and specialty, so there really is something for every taste.
In Brussels, the aroma of chocolate floats around every street corner, tempting those with a sweet tooth. Some areas have a higher concentration of workshops and shops than others: the Sablon and the Mont des Arts, the area around the Grand-Place and the famous Galeries Royales Saint Hubert. Although usually shipped all over the world, nothing beats the pleasure of tasting these delicate morsels as you tread Brussels’ cobble stoned streets. What’s more, our capital city gives you an opportunity to brush up on your knowledge of chocolate through its museums, tastings, workshops and hotel deals.
In Brussels, indigestion is never a problem!
While it is an important cultural icon, chocolate is above all a particularly important economic activity given the fact that the Brussels Capital Region has 32 companies specialising in working with cocoa, producing chocolate and confectionery products. It also accounts for 850 jobs a day in this sector. In addition, the Brussels Region has a directory of more than 250 shops specialising in selling chocolate, pastries and other derived products. The Belgian Chocolate Makers is the biggest chocolate store in Brussels.
Some additional figures
48 % of global cocoa production is consumed in Europe.
68% of cocoa comes from Africa (with Ivory Coast the leading producer).
3.5 million tonnes of beans are harvested annually across the world.
1.3% of cocoa is grown under fair trade conditions.
1 dollar: average daily income of an African cocoa grower.
9 kg: annual per capita consumption in Belgium.
The reputation of Belgian chocolate
Belgian chocolate is recognised across the world in particular for the refined flavour of the top quality cocoa butter used by the country’s chocolatiers.
In 2003, the European Union decreed that the butter used in the manufacture of chocolate could contain up to 5% vegetable fats, such as palm oil. As the addition of such ingredients can adversely affect the quality of the chocolate, Belgian chocolatiers decided to remain true to the use of 100% cocoa butter. It is this attitude that extends the reputation of Belgian chocolate far beyond our borders!
Do you know that you can also order our delicious homemade chocolates using the Deliveroo delivery platform if you are living or visiting Brussels? Week after week, we are adding more and more mendiants. broken tablets, pralines and truffles available to be ordered on Deliveroo.
If the thought of a chocolate party has got your taste buds tingling, then why not write to us? We love to tailor workshops! Tell us about your event requirements. 🙂
We’re always happy to provide you with plenty more information on our birthday parties, hen parties, tourist and school visits, public and private workshops, teambuilding and chocolate tasting experiences. Ring us on +32 (0)2 533 95 80 or use the form below and we’ll be delighted to help.
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The native home of Zaabär
The chocolate factory Zaabär was founded in 2007. The creator was inspired by a wide array of spices floating around the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. Zaabär was created as an extraordinary combination of fine Belgian chocolate and spices from around the world. The idea is to let your taste buds roam free across the world tasting various more exotic or traditional spices. One of the aspects that nudges Zaabär out of the ordinary, apart from the truly exceptional combination of spices and chocolate, is the unusual vacuum sealed wrapping in which the chocolates are kept in. This wrapping offers a much longer conservation time for all types of chocolate.
The Zaabär factory was redesigned completely in the summer of 2018 and is now The Belgian Chocolate Makers. We offer a tremendous space of 600m2 entirely dedicated to chocolate experiences with both a huge workshop and an amazing chocolate store. We invite all our visitors to explore the tremendous world of our handmade Belgian chocolate through an array of chocolate samples, workshops and other activities, so come visit us!