If there is one thing that Belgium is famous for – it’s Belgian chocolate. Walking along the streets of Brussels you see hundreds of chocolate shops, all luring you in with shopping windows of chocolate fountains and amazing chocolate-art. I’m a sucker for chocolate, so you can imagine how excited I was to be taking a chocolate tasting workshop to one of the most famous chocolatiers in the country: Laurent Gerbaud.
While talking to Laurent, I quickly realize that although I love chocolate more than anyone I know (until I met Laurent, that is), I know absolutely nothing about it.
Apparently, I’m not alone: “Most people have no idea about chocolate – they think the only difference is cocoa percentage, whether it’s dark, white or milk chocolate – but that’s far from the truth”, says Laurent, while explaining that chocolate is even more elusive than wine.
“Once you’ve tasted really good chocolate, you’ll never go back”, he says with a wink in the eye, but I know he means it. Laurent took us “behind the scenes” of the chocolate boutique, to the kitchen where they make it all happen. What fascinates me the most is the passion Laurent shows when he talks about chocolate and his business, and his excitement when describing different flavors he has experimented with.
It was fun to see how it all worked, but the best part was of course the chocolate tasting. We sit down at a table with a glass of water (the best drink to really taste the different flavors), and Laurent brings us a plate each with chocolate pralines. We begin with a small piece of chocolate, and slowly move clockwise, taking our time to taste every praline on the plate. The first chocolate piece was nice, but nothing special – I was actually slightly disappointed, but then Laurent explained that the chocolate I just had was the “bad” one, put there to give us an idea of what the average chocolate you normally eat tastes like compared to good chocolate. As we tasted the pralines one by one, we tried some of the most amazing combinations, and got a whole new perspective on chocolate.
I never knew just how many variables are in play to create chocolate, and to have it all there in front of you and be able to compare each type of chocolate, from South American to African cacao, special combinations and so on – was eye-opening.
I had secretly been wishing that Laurent would be wrong with his promise that I would no longer enjoy normal chocolate after the tasting, because before the tasting I was happy with the chocolate I used to eat – and it was cheaper.
But in a way, sadly, he was right. It doesn’t have to be the best chocolate in the world, but there is a clear difference between “better” chocolate and stuff like Toblerone, which just doesn’t taste the same anymore. Luckily, I had this epiphany in a country which was full of the best chocolate in the world, and could indulge (almost) guiltlessly in chocolate for the next 8 days, so I didn’t feel too bad about it 😉 For chocolate addicts like me, I would definitely recommend a chocolate tasting workshop next time you’re in Belgium, you’ll eat so much chocolate that you will skip dinner!
Special thanks to Visit Flanders for arranging our trip to Belgium.