World-famous Belgian chocolate, from bean to palate

World Chocolate Day is celebrated July 7, a special occasion that marks the arrival of cocoa beans, the fundamental ingredient of chocolate, to the European continent.

When it comes to Europe and chocolate, one country that immediately springs to mind is Belgium — renowned for its exceptional chocolate industry that extends far beyond its borders.

Belgium is not only home to globally recognized chocolate brands but it also hosts numerous boutique chocolatiers, offering exquisite handmade creations and fresh flavors in virtually every corner of the country.

Many chocolatiers are family-run businesses with roots dating to the 1800s, adding a sense of tradition and heritage to their craft.

There are several factors that make Belgian chocolate truly unique, with the primary distinction being the use of 100% cocoa butter, a superior choice compared to cheaper and potentially harmful alternatives like palm or shea butter.

Lisa Woestyn, chief master of the Chocolate Museum in Brussels, told the secrets of Belgian chocolate to Anadolu.

Woestyn said cocoa beans used in making chocolate at the museum comes from Mexico, Uganda and Vietnam, stressing that the museum uses large beans because the aroma is more intense, and that is one of the secrets of Belgian chocolate.

The first and still in effect regulation on the manufacture of chocolate in the country dates to 1894.

The Belgian Royal Decree on the cocoa and chocolate trade of Nov.18, 1894, prevents the percentage of cocoa butter in the chocolate produced in the country from falling below 35. It allows the use of only high-quality oils such as butter besides cocoa butter.

The annual turnover of the chocolate industry in Belgium is €5 billion, according to the Royal Belgium Association of Chocolate, Pralines, Biscuit and Confectionary. A total of 722 tons of chocolate is produced annually, of which 649,000 tons are exported.

Moreover, 262 chocolate producers employ 8,457 workers. A total of 5.2 kilograms (11.5 pounds) of chocolate is consumed per capita in Belgium.

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