Buying Belgian Chocolate in Brussels
Next to Swiss chocolates, Belgian chocolates are rated some of the best in the world. There is a reason for this. Belgians take chocolate making very seriously! Just like beer making. Therefore if you are buying chocolate from Brussels, be sure to take home some of the best. There are thousands of varieties to choose from and endless choices to be made. However, there are also a few tips to ensure you buy chocolates at the right price and that they are stored and savoured properly.
Where to buy them
Ensure you buy genuine handmade Belgian chocolates (pralines and truffles are the best) that are not made anywhere else. The chocolates in Belgium are made with 100% cocoa butter, without any vegetable oil. Sounds fattening but it’s actually better quality and leaves a very fresh aftertaste in your mouth.
There are many souvenir shops along the Grand Place (Grote Markt) that sell boxes of Belgian chocolates all staked up together and sold at deep ‘discounts’. These boxes are the mass manufactured type that are not even sold in supermarkets.
If you are looking for the really good handmade chocolates then go to one of the following chocolate outlets to taste and see the chocolates for yourself. These are the high quality chocolates that are made daily by hand using the best quality chocolate. From least to most expensive: Leonidas, Neuhaus, Godiva and Pierre Marcolini’s.
At a chocolate shop
A chocolaterie is a chocolate shop. Familiarise yourself with the different types of chocolates. When you enter the chocolate shops you will often see a counter filled with chocolates and some empty gift boxes stacked up on the counter with different prices.
These chocolates are freshly made everyday. You can choose from the counter and fill a box, normally sold by weight. The price for a 250g box is indicative and is normally limited to the pralines and the solid chocolates. Truffles and cups cost slightly more and sold separately. Expect to pay about €5-€18 for a 250g box depending on the brand.
If you don’t really mind which chocolates go into your selection, simply ask for a pre-packed box. Quick, easy and still delicious! Otherwise here is a small list of the types of chocolates you can select from.
In Belgium, pralines mean any type of filled chocolate, either butter cream, fruit creams, almond and nut pastes or nuts. These chocolates have the most varieties and are the most popular! The shells are either white, milk or dark chocolate.
A powdery chocolate made from a ganache (cream and solid chocolate mixture) with a solid or cocoa powder shell. These are normally slightly more expensive than the pralines. They are creamy and rich.
These are pure almond and nut paste shaped into small rectangular blocks and wrapped with gold paper. It is like eating a hazelnut paste praline without the chocolate shell.
Storage and longevity
Unlike chocolates that you buy from the supermarket, handmade chocolates do not contain a lot of preservatives. Therefore they need to be taken care of and eaten within approximately 21 days without refrigeration. Ask the chocolate store assistants how long you can store the particular chocolates that you have purchased.
The optimum temperature for consuming chocolates is about 18°C (64°F). Store them in a dry and dark place. Otherwise keep them in the fridge and take them out about 20 minutes before you want to eat them so they will come up to room temperature.