Belgium is regarded as having some of the finest chocolate makers in the world. In fact, they take their chocolate so serious in Belgium they even have a museum devoted to one of the world’s most pleasurable foods.
The Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate is situated in Brussels, and tells the story of chocolate, from its first use by Mayans over four millennia ago. Unlike today, when we mix sugar into chocolate to make it sweet, to the Mayans it was a bitter drink. In fact, their word for the substance xocoatl means “bitter water” and the Mayans mixed spices into the drink to make it more palatable. Chocolate was considered so valuable it was even used as money.
When the Aztecs succeeded the Mayans they discovered that chocolate spread over the body was good for protecting the skin against sunburn; it was also used to ease stomach aches, and as a remedy against snakebites.
Chocolate first began to appear in Belgium in the Seventeenth Century, but it took until well into the Eighteenth Century for the Belgians to perfect the art of turning chocolate into desserts and confectionery.
In order to best use chocolate the beans are first picked and dried, then they are roasted, and it is during this process that they shrink, but as the do so their flavour intensifies. A chocolate past is made and kneaded for several hours to make it finer and smoother.
The Museum is located very close to the Grand Palace of Brussels and occupies a heritage building.
Once you’ve visited the Museum you’ll want to try out some perfect Belgian chocolate for yourself. There are many great chocolatiers in Brussels, and some of the best known ones include Pierre Moccolini who has a fine range of contemporary chocolates. Neuhaus is famous for its hand-crafted chocolates. Godiva sells their chocolates in glorious boxes which you unveil in private later. And Planete Chocolat is like a mini museum of chocolate, which just begs you to take it home.