The word “Chocolate” is derived from the word “xocolatl” of the Aztecs of Mexico. The Aztecs associated chocolates with the goddess of fertility, “Xochiquetzal”. No wonder, even today chocolate is considered aphrodisiac.
The Spanish Conquistadors learned about chocolates from the new world and introduced it to Europe through Spain in the year 1502. Spanish explorer Herman Cortés learned how to convert the bitter cocoa bean to the wonderful chocolate drink from the Aztecs and brought this treasure back in Spain. Chocolate grew in popularity with the Spaniards and the preparation method remained a secret with Spain for over 100 years. It’s a wonder then when we discuss who makes the best chocolates, we discuss about Belgium or France or Switzerland but hardly any body discuss chocolates made in Spain.In France, Chocolate was received with skepticism and was considered a “noxious drug”. In 1615, a French Queen, Anne of Austria, wife of Louis XIII declared chocolate as the drink of the French court and saved the day for the French and Chocolate.In the early 17th century, chocolate travelled to Italy and England and very soon became popular. In 1650, chocolate became quite a rage in Oxford.
So far, from its introduction to Europe in 1500 till 1650, we do not find any association of chocolates with the Switzerland or Belgium. And we are still left wondering, how come these two countries became synonymous with highest quality of chocolates. In fact Switzerland began making chocolates only in 1800. At that time, they had lots of cows but not much cocoa or sugar. Another interesting little known fact about chocolate is that it was available only as a cocoa or a liquid form till 1879. It was Rudolph Lindt who thought to add cocoa butter back to the chocolate. Adding the additional cocoa butter helped the chocolate set up into a bar that “snaps” when broken as well as melting on the tongue. And in 1876, M. Daniel Peter of Switzerland attempted to add milk to chocolate to produce a smoother chocolate although it took him 8 years to perfect the technique in collaboration with Henry Nestle who has perfected the art and science of evaporated milk.
From then on, the Swiss became the master of making milk chocolates. A Belgian company, Berwaerts, was the first to sell chocolates as tablets, pastilles, and figurines in the year 1840. In 1912 the Belgian confectionery Jean Niihau created the “praline”, a chocolate pastille or shell filled with delicate chocolates. In 1929, the Drape family, the original owners of Godiva, added to the Belgian reputation by inventing and introducing chocolate truffle.
Today Belgium produces 172,000 tons of chocolate per year with more than 2,000 chocolate shops throughout the country. Chocolate is now a way of life for the Belgian people.Today, we are fortunate to enjoy the fruits of the labor of love of all these countries and people and have access to the finest of chocolates from around the world. From the evolution of the chocolates over the centuries and from our personal tasting experiments we can safely conclude that when it comes to milk chocolates, “Swiss chocolates” wins hands down. When it comes to chocolate bars, the Swiss chocolate bars are rich, creamy and sweet. However it has more sugar content and less cocoa compared to the French or Belgian Chocolate Bars. Lindt, the world famous chocolate company, makes chocolate bars both in Switzerland and in France and both are top of line. However our taste buds tell us that chocolate bars made in Switzerland are creamier and has more milk whereas chocolate bars made in France is more mellow and has a wider range of flavours. However in the category of covered chocolates or truffles, we would give the edge to the Belgian chocolates.
The Belgian chocolates / Pralines are richer in flavours, has more cocoa and less sugary. They are also filled with incredible fillings which simply burst in the mouth with an explosion of varied taste. It is said that there are over 600 compounds in the chocolates, and when tasting a Belgian Praline, one can really feel and enjoy the best of the best.Let us keep in mind that there are good chocolates and no so good chocolates that are made everywhere. Today, we find very good quality chocolates are being made in America and people are experimenting with chocolates like never before. You will find chocolates with chili, tea or even bacon. More about that later. For now, dig in the web store of Giftswish.com and find out the widest selection of chocolate bars and chocolates from around the world.