Belgium and Switzerland have been chocolate rivals for centuries, and anyone that visits Belgium will easily find out why. The praline is one of Belgium’s finest chocolates, invented in 1912 by Jean Neuhaus II in Brussels. This city is full of world-renowned chocolate shops like Leonidas, which makes pralines that can be found all over the world. Larger chocolate makers can also be found, such as Belcolade, and Barry Callibaut, which runs the largest chocolate factory in the world in the town of Wieze. What makes it uniquely Belgian is the fact that they use 100% cocoa butter, enhancing its smoothness, and also because most chocolatiers insist on hand-making their products.
Few countries are as synonymous with chocolate as Switzerland. One of the reasons is that the invention of milk chocolate can be traced to the town of Vevey. Another is that they eat more of the sweet stuff per capita than any other country on earth. Switxerland is full of great chocolatiers, from large names such as Lindt, Tobler, and even Nestle, to small shops that can be found across the country. Although chocolate truffles originated in France, the Swiss gave it a unique twist, making great truffles with chocolate mixed with cream or butter. What makes Swiss chocolate unique is their history of being innovative, from making the first bars in 1819, to discovering the conche in 1879.
Despite the name, German chocolate cake did not originate in Germany, but the U.S. Even so, Germany is well-known for its excellent chocolates such as Sarotti, Stollwerck, and Ritter Sport. The southern region of Bavaria is Germany’s top chocolate region, though other large cities such as Hamburg and Berlin also have many great chocolate makers. Around the holidays, Ischoklad, or ice chocolate, which is chocolate mixed with coconut oil, is both a popular treat, and one of things that makes German chocolate so unique. Germans prefer dark chocolate, and the country is one of the world’s top cocoa consumers.
The Dutch made chocolate available to the masses with C.J. Van Houten’s cocoa press, giving us cocoa powder. They are still best known for cocoa powder and Van Houten’s other invention; Dutch-process chocolate which thanks to its alkalization has a milder flavor compared to that found in other parts of Europe. This is used by makers of ice cream, cake mixes, and other such applications worldwide. Great chocolatiers can be found in all the major Dutch cities.