Belgian chocolate (chocolat belge in French or belgische chocolade in Dutch) is a worldwide reference for chocolate-lovers. The specificity of Belgian chocolate is that the
actual production of the chocolate must take place in Belgium, while cacao beans and other ingredients such as sugar can originate from outside of Belgium. Belgian chocolate is internationally known, and dates from as early as the 17th century.
composition of Belgian chocolate has been regulated by law since 1884 and, to prevent adulteration of the chocolate with low-quality fats from other sources, a minimum level of 35% pure cocoa was imposed. Adherence to traditional manufacturing techniques also
serves to increase the quality of Belgian chocolate. In particular, vegetable-based fats are not used. Only cocoa butter. Many firms produce chocolates by hand, which is laborious and explains the prevalence of small, independent chocolate outlets. Famous
Belgian chocolate companies, like Neuhaus, Guylian and Marcolini, strictly follow traditional recipes for their products.
Historically, the association of Belgium with chocolate goes back as far as 1635 when the country was under Spanish
occupation. The chocolate became later very popular among the upper and middle class, particularly in the form of hot chocolate. From the early 20th century, Belgium was able to import huge quantities of cocao from its African colony, the Belgian Congo. The
chocolate bar as well as the praline are both inventions of the Belgian chocolate industry.
Pralines, sometimes called chocolate bonbons in English-speaking countries, are chocolate pieces filled with a soft centre. They were
first introduced in 1912 by Jean Neuhaus, a Belgian chocolatier. There have always been many forms and shapes in pralines and they nearly always contain a hard chocolate shell with a softer or more liquid filling. Belgian pralines are not limited to the traditional
praliné filling and can include butter cream, liquor, nuts, marzipan or even a chocolate blend that contrasts with the hard outer shell. They are often sold in designed boxes, in the form of a gift box.
500 chocolatiers and almost 2.000 chocolate shops in Belgium, one for every 5.500 inhabitants, every Belgian consumes an average of 8 pounds of chocolate per year, one
of the highest rates in the world. The country produces 172.000 tons of chocolate
every year, the majority for the exportation. A symbol of Belgian quality in the world.