Belgium is one of the few countries in the world known for its delectable fine chocolate. How this small country become home of some of the best chocolatiers, however, is not so sweet. It began in the 1880s, when Belgium was ruled by King Leopold II. He laid the foundations in controlling the Congo Free State (present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo) in Africa that provided easy access to the vast cocoa grounds. Belgium continued to import cocoa from Congo despite war was raged by the African slaves. It is said that about 10 million Congolese were murdered during Leopold II’s reign.
It was in 1912 when Belgium made a mark in the chocolate industry when a Swiss family based in Brussels, the Neuhaus, created the praline. This confection was the first buttercream-filled, bite-sized chocolate, which was filled either with nuts or cream and coated with milk chocolate. These pralines were sold in a special packaging called Ballotin, deep cardboard boxes with overhanging edges, which has since became a standard in packing different types of fine chocolate.
Today, several well-known chocolatiers traced their roots in Belgium such as Neuhaus, Leonidas, Godiva, and Nirvana. They still create the most luscious pralines, as well as truffles, ganache, and other tasty confections that the whole world enjoys.