I am not a chocolate snob. Paige and I enjoyed chocolate in every form possible pretty much all day long during our March research trip to Belgium. We would start in the morning in our chain hotel, where the breakfast buffet included both chocolate sprinkles and chocolate paste to spread on our toast. A mid-afternoon stop for coffee even in chain coffee shops involved a little chocolate treat placed discreetly on our saucer. We even stocked up on Galler and Neuhaus chocolate bars at the corner store for late night cravings while we wrote up our notes in the hotel room each night.
Thus armed with first-hand research of mass-marketed Belgian chocolate, we were ready to explore the new world of artisan chocolate. We found a noticeable difference in taste and texture. Artisan chocolate is generally denser, richer, and less sweet. They also feature unusual combinations, coupling chocolate with exotic, unlikely ingredients such as fiery peppers, large salty chunks, exotic nuts, lavender, or ginger.
The flavors are so complex, you don’t really need to eat a lot to feel satisfied. Or at least that’s what we were told at every chocolate tasting. Paige, if you’re reading this, we might need to work on our chocolate-tasting poker face.
Below is a series of photos of our favorite artisan chocolate shops in Brussels, Bruges, and Antwerp.
Brussels: Zaabar, Chaussee de Charleroi, 125
Antwerp: The Chocolate Line, Meir 50
Bruges: Dumon, Eiermarkt 6 (see feature photo)
Brussels: Laurent Gerbaud (pictured below in his shop of the same name), rue Ravenstein 2