Belgian. Chocolate. Two words that are practically synonymous in our minds. Walking through the beautiful canal-crossed city of Brugge this morning, it felt like every other storefront advertised the Best Chocolate in the World. And they’re not wrong! We had a special opportunity to taste chocolate from two of them (plus a third in Brussels, shipped specially to Brugge for us) at a tasting event onboard National Geographic Explorer in the afternoon.
Chocolaterie Mary is notable for several reasons. Mary herself was the first woman chocolatier in Belgium. (Mary, I salute you.) Established in 1919, this 100+ year old shop is the only artisanal chocolate supplier to the Belgian royal family. And members of the royal family each get the chance to name their favorite confection. At our tasting onboard National Geographic Explorer, we tasted the favorite of King Philippe (milk chocolate shell surrounding a dark chocolate ganache), along with several other gorgeous confections.
Next on our tasting menu were three single origin chocolates (made using cocoa from just one country, to taste its particular flavor profile) from The Chocolate Brothers. Henk, who founded this company about five years ago, is one of only two bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Brugge. That means Henk starts the chocolate making process from cocoa beans, and can control the steps of roasting and conching to bring out the flavor profiles he most desires for the chocolate. We tasted his single origin bars from Cameroon, Venezuela, and Mexico, and each one had its devoted fans among our guests.
Finally, we tasted two exceptional bars from MIA, which stands for Made in Africa. While the company is run out of Brussels, all MIA chocolate bars are made in Africa, in the same country where the cocoa grows. We tasted two bars made in Madagascar with Madagascar cocoa, one with the inclusion of baobab and salted nibs—delicious!