The Land of the black gold
The port of Antwerp has the largest import of cocoa beans, annually billions of these beans arrive in our harbor. Only the best will be used for our Belgian chocolate so they will be checked and sorted by a bonologist.
The historic sailing ship Tres Hombres exported cocoa beans to Belgium for the first time in 2017, with Blankenberge as port of arrival. Captain Arjen Van der Veen was super proud with a load of 7ton. A dream came true. The ship has taken an ecological route and there was it didn't leave any trace of co2, on top of that the products are organic and fair trade. The road to Bruges, where the cocoa beans will be further processed, will be covered by bicycle!The Tres Hombres is a Dutch sailing ship sailing under the Foundation sailing merchant shipping, their goal is to revitalize the ship. An experienced permanent crew takes a maximum of 12 pupils / trainees on board who will learn the basic practice of sailing.
And we can be proud of the rich history! It was perhaps the Spaniards who discovered the chocolate drink in the 16th century but it are the Belgians who have lifted it to another level!
Chocolate a panacea
The use of cocoa beans goes 5300 years back, somewhere in Ecuador. The Olmeken grew the trees more than 2000 years BC and the Maya took that over and drank it at spiritual ceremonies. The history of chocolate as we know it in Europe began with Meso-American civilization, the Mexico of today. Between 1200 and 1521.
The Aztecs believed that the seeds of the cocoa bean were a gift from Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom. They brewed a drink which was very popular with the village people. So for that reason they were able to use the cocoa beans as a payment method. The emperor of the Aztecs loved it so much he could drink liters of the chocolate. He also strongly believed in the medicinal benefits: you became smarter, stronger and your libido will rise!
The word chocolate is a derivation and translation of the Aztec word Chocolatl.
The golden age, the 16th century cocoa spreads over the rest of Europe!
The Spanish explorer Cortez who returned from his trip (1521) carried the cocoa beans with him. The Spaniards made a sweet drink out of it, they added sugar and vanilla, it was top secret that they could keep 100 years for themselves. The drink became hugely popular in Europe, the battle for the cocoa bean had begun!
In Antigua chocolate is still made like the Mayans but with Spanish colonial influences.
From plantation to chocolate bars
The cocoa tree is originally from Mexico and South America.
West Africa, Brazil in South America are the largest producers. Cocoa trees grow in warm and humid climates. The fruits do not tolerate direct sunlight and can grow up to 15 meters in free nature.
The trees get their fruits after 3 to 4 years old and they bloom all year round. Pods are formed on the thickest branches, large pods of white pods are found in those pods, these are the cocoa beans.
When harvested the pods are cut open, the beans will sorted in heaps of banana leaves and the, again covered with other leaves, this remains for five days.
The temperature rises. It is now that the beans turn dark brown and the cocoa flavor develops. But the beans are tough and bitter.
After fermentation the seeds are dried in the sun, which takes about 1 to 2 weeks. Once dried, they go into bags or chests to the factories. After washing they are roasted in an oven. This is the moment were they get a chocolate taste. They are mashed in a machine into a paste. Pressing together ensures the separation of the moisture, which is the cocoa butter.
The pasta, butter and sugar are stirred for several days, blocks are poured from them, which are then finally put in a cooling.
The first Belgian chocolate factory Meurisse
It is in 1845 when Adolphe Meurisse opens the first factory at the Damplein in Antwerp. The chocolate use to be known under the names Boy Scouts, Finor and Croma. But 1969 the factory came into difficulties and General Chocolate took over the business. A closure followed in 1974 and the production was continued in Herentals in the De Beukelaer factory. From now on it is Meurisse. - The Beukelaer "
Neuhaus, Leonidas and Meurisse Belgian pioneers
Jean Neuhaus a Swiss pharmacist based in Brussels wanted to pamper its customers so he came up with the idea to hid medication under a layer of chocolate. In 1912 it was his grandson who came up with the idea to make a real bonbon, filled with goodies and no more medicines. The original Belgian praline is born. The first boutique was opened in Brussels in 1857 in the Kings Gallery first as a pharmacist afterwards as a chocolatier.
Louise Agostine, Mr Neuhaus's wife, invented the world-famous box to protect the praline, previously it was sold in a cone bag. The Ballotin box was a bull's eye and is still being used.
Guylian, a love story and saving seahorses
The most beautiful story is that of chocolate Guylian. One of the most famous chocolates in the world, the seahorse filled with praliné.
Mummy, my grandmother and godmother lived on the coast and she always had the chocolate seahorses and shells in the house. I only recently discovered the story of Guylian and was in love with the past and present!
A love story that arises from passion and love for each other and chocolate. Guy and Lilian were madly in love, he was a well-known chocolatier, they married and continued the business together. Coastal tourism experienced an unprecedented increase and in 1958 Guy and Lilian let their name merge into Guylian, a new name was created and so the chocolate seahorses filled with Guy's praliné were born. Lilian took care of the seashells and the color shades with her creative touch.
You can recognize a real Guylian chocolate from the G stamp underneath each chocolate.
Guylian has been supporting the Seahorse project since 1998. A project that works to save and protect seahorses and other living sea creatures. Every year more than 25 million seahorses are traded alive or dead. These animals usually end up in aquariums, get sold dried as a souvenir and are used in Chinese traditional medicine.
Chocolate line from Dominque Persoon
Dominique's colorful and powerful creations stand out, for sure he gest his inspiration from his cocoa jungle travels to Latin America. This is where the new flavors and smells of the Chocolate Line are created.
The chocolate line is an example of how we must handle ingredients in a responsible manner. Respect local farmers and village people and there old tradition, heritage. We must create environmentally-friendly packaging.
And that is why we are so good! Ambao this is Belgian
The European directive says that 5% of your chocolate may consist of vegetable fats from other artificial additives, so that means replacing cocoa butter!!!
We don't think so! Belgium really didn't want to participate. That is what the Ambao quality label indicates. Ministry of Economic Affairs decided in 2000 to create a label and a new law so Belgian quality chocolate can be distinguished from the fake.
Chef - Foodstylist - Recipe Developer - Antwerp - Asturias