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Many countries have their signature food. Japan has sushi. Thailand has Pad Thai. Iceland has hotdogs (believe it or not). And Belgium has waffles, beer, frites (fries) and CHOCOLATE!
Without question, the Belgian chocolate is the best in the world.
Usually I like to write a blog on my experiences within a certain city or country. But today I need to talk about something far more specific. I spent a day wandering the streets of downtown Belgium, and it didn’t take long for me to decide what my concentration would be – visiting every chocolatier in town that I could find. That was quite an undertaking considering there are over 2000 chocolate shops in Belgium selling some of the 172,000 TONS of chocolate that the country produces each year.
Many people, especially Americans, think of Hersey’s or See’s when they think of chocolate. After trying real Belgian chocolate, all I can say is that those phoneys don’t make real chocolate. Since 1884, Belgian law has mandated that at least 35% pure cocoa be used in the manufacture of true Belgian chocolate. Combined with secret recipes of many manufacturers, and some even producing the chocolate by hand, it’s no wonder why their chocolate is superior.
What amazed me the most was the sheer quantity of the selection. It would be impossible to list every type of chocolate or chocolate product I found available. In one store, they had chocolate shaped in every type of tool. In another, I found sixteen different tea flavors of chocolate, including green tea. All sixteen were available for sampling, and I just might have gotten a little carried away. By the way, that same store had over 40 different types of chocolate to sample. But it wasn’t the only store offering samples – many of the stores have bits of truffles or chunks of bark to taste. I can honestly say that I was just a little sick to my stomach by the end of the day.
Did you know Godiva chocolate started in Belgium in 1926. While it is only one of several major manufacturers who export internationally, it is the one I was most familiar with in the US. I always considered Godiva chocolate to be the best in town. Now that I’ve tried some from a store in their home country, I find that their American chocolate isn’t as good. Godiva chocolate in America is manufactured in Pennsylvania, while it is manufactured in Belgium for the rest of the world. But it is always made from 100% cocoa butter and no GMO products. It’s still some of the best you will get in America, but if you want the REAL thing, you’ll just have to come to Belgium and experience it for yourself.
No post about Belgian chocolate would be complete without mentioning the hot chocolate. This isn’t your Swiss Miss or Nestle. This is pure Belgian chocolate, melted down and thinned with just enough water to make it the most rich and delicious cup of pure heaven. Many stores in Belgium sell it, or you can get it prepackaged in little chocolate blocks complete with spoon. Just don’t take took long deciding which flavour you want, or you might be standing there all day.
If the above pictures haven’t satiated you yet, check out the rest of my photos.