Before you read this online press review on the Chocolate Tour & Workshop offered by Global Enterprise in Brussels, I have to advise you to immediately get yourself some form of chocolate to accompany this review. Without such chocolate, you're going to have constant cravings throughout reading this review; I want you to enjoy reading about the spectacular experience that you can have with Global Enterprise in comfort, with a sweet treat.
Chocolate obtained? Well, now you're ready to read on, with a smile. With the first trace of chocolate in Belgium dating back to 1635 and it being famed for its invention of praline in 1912, the capital city of Brussels can only be truly appreciated if you experience a Chocolate Tour & Workshop. Global Enterprise offers a 4 hour tour with a 1 hour workshop at a cost of 70 EUR (73 USD) per adult and 40 EUR (42 USD) per child. Whilst I appreciate this price is high, please read on to find out what and how much you're going to do and enjoy in these 4 hours.
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Start from Grand Place with a multilingual chocolate expert
Starting off from the centrally located Grand Place at 1000 Brussels, Belgium, you will meet your multi-lingual guide and be given a brief overview on the Chocolate Tour & Workshop before departing to see and enjoy various establishments and sites. Your guide will be enthusiastic, energetic and engaging about chocolate and Brussels. They will emphasise at the beginning of the tour and will re-iterate throughout that there is no pressure for you to buy chocolate on the tour. The purpose of the tour is not to act as a shopping experience but rather a learning experience.
I can assure you that you will learn in abundance about chocolate and so much more. For example, did you know that the Swiss, who are also famous for their chocolate, actually learnt much from what they known from the Belgians? Well, a tour with Global Enterprise will certainly inform you of the history and importance of chocolate to Belgium. Chocolate in multiple forms will be pointed out to you throughout the tour and this will include it in its solid form and liquid form (i.e., hot chocolate!).
Chocolate in so many forms; I like it hot!
Try and see if you can spot the hot chocolate spoons that consist of hard chocolate attached to a wooden spoon, which is meant to be dipped and stirred into a hot cup of milk to make hot chocolate. Away with the tinned chocolate powder to make a hot chocolate drink and enter the heavenly wooden spoons. Brussels is famous for its chocolate attached wooden spoons and has so many different types of solid forms of chocolate that can be made into a blissful liquid form.
You should be able to spot the chocolate attached wooden spoons in most of the establishments that you visit. I would recommend that you wear comfortable shoes for the tour because of the cobblestones and the amount of walking involved. You would also be advised to wear warm clothes and have an umbrella on standby in case of rain. During my experience, it rained heavily for about 2 hours of the tour and having an umbrella was pivotal.
However, as you will see from my love and passion of the tour offered, the rain did not dampen my experience. It is also recommended that you carry a bottle of water with you as you will be sampling some scrumptious and sweet bite sized chocolates, and in order for your palate to appreciate each one as it should be, you need to wash your mouth of any previous flavours.
Who doesn't love chocolate?
Your tour will include visiting a number of chocolate places that are described below in more detail. In each place you will be able to sample at least two pieces of chocolate of your choice, which means that this tour has a personalized take that can please and satisfy any participant. Who wouldn't like joining a tour where they can pick which chocolates to sample?
In some of the chocolate heavens that you visit you will also be able to see live chocolate demonstrations such as seeing how chocolate is actually made. For example, when visiting Chocopolis, you may have the opportunity to see a real chocolatier at work because of how the shop at Rue du Marché aux Herbes 110, 1000 Brussels, Belgium is set-up. On the one side, you are able to view all the final products (the beautiful chocolates) and on the other side, there is a glass window that allows you to see a mini chocolate factory where items are being created from start-to-finish.
This is a brilliant opportunity because you're able to see the smooth and shiny chocolate in its various forms and the process in how it is being made into a final product. As you learn throughout the tour about how chocolate is actually made, being able to see it through the window of a chocolate house is a real positive. Your guide will provide you with approximately fifteen minutes in each chocolate establishment. Whilst walking to, from and in each organisation, you will be taught about the different types of chocolate (dark, milk and white) and what makes a chocolate guru.
Am I in a chocolate or jewellery shop?
Your guide will take you to experience the least expensive chocolate to the most expensive chocolate across the city so that you can become fully informed on quality and prices. You will be given the opportunity to learn about the variety of chocolatiers from the large commercial names like Neuhaus and Godiva to the small local Elisabeth Chocolatier.
You will be introduced to and taken to a number of organisations, some of which may also include Leonidas, Corne Port Royal, Côte d’Or, Mary Chocolaterie and Pierre Marcolini. Before you sample your chocolates at some of these sweet and luxurious hubs, your guide will give you information on the amount of cocoa in the chocolates in store and which items are recommended for sampling (something that is very much appreciated due to the enormous amount of choice).
Interestingly, you will also be taught about how each of the chocolate establishments considers how chocolate should be displayed, served and eaten. There is so much thought that goes into the quality, flavour and presentation of chocolate that it would certainly surprise you. Some of the establishments and the chocolate houses looked like glamorous jewellery shops because of their overall appearance and interior as well and of course, how the delicate chocolates were designed. You may be surprised to hear that the price of some of the chocolates could match that of a jewellery shop too; the Belgians have pride for their chocolate and some places price it to reflect that accordingly.
The precious praline that made chocolate a star for Belgium
When visiting Neuhaus, you will be taught about Jean Neuhaus II who invented the chocolate bonbon and the famous Belgian praline in 1912. A praline is a thin chocolate shell with a soft delectable centre. Neuhaus now has over 1,500 selling points in over 50 countries in the world. No doubt you won't be surprised that I advise you to sample some delightful pralines at this chocolate house.
When enjoying time at Mary Chocolaterie, which was created in 1919, you will learn about how the company was awarded the, "Certified Royal Warrant Holder of Belgium" in 1942. The "Certified Royal Warrant Holder of Belgium" is issued by a Belgian Court and acknowledges when a company provides chocolate to royal persons. I certainly felt like royalty when enjoying the glorious champagne truffles.
As couture is in fashion, Pierre Marcolini is that to the chocolate world. The first store was opened in Brussels in 1995, the same year in which Pierre Marcolini was named the World Champion of Pastry. He is a gourmet chocolatier who uses the finest ingredients and creates the most non-traditional chocolate pairings and this is what makes his chocolates exciting. Don't miss your chance to try the extraordinary cardamom or divine earl grey filled chocolates as they are so distinctive and blissful.
Learning from a chocolate connoisseur
After celebrating samples of chocolate from some fantastic establishments, you will then be taken to a central apartment in Brussels where you will embark on the chocolate workshop. This will be a nice contrast to being out and about on your feet as you can now enjoy chocolate whilst sitting in a very beautiful, relaxing, welcoming and warm environment.
Your guide will be accompanied by a chocolate connoisseur who will first teach you about pralines whilst showing you the process in which pralines are made. This chocolate expert will show you how chocolate is poured into moulds, the filling of the praline is piped and how the mould is finally topped with more deliciousness. Time permitting, they will also allow you to assist them in the creation of some scrumptious pralines.
Afterwards, you will have the opportunity to make some simpler chocolates on your own. You will be given a silver tray upon which you will be able to pour a chocolate liquid and manage the shape and size of each chocolate item that you wish. Following this, you will be able to select dried fruits, nuts, candied fruit peels, spices and salts to personalise and decorate the chocolates. Now, for someone with little culinary skill such as myself, this was a fantastic introduction to the world of making sweet cuisine.
Once you've finished making your one-of-a-kind chocolates, you will then be given the opportunity to sit, back, relax and enjoy a short documentary on the different types of cocoa beans and where they are grown. This documentary lasts approximately fifteen minutes. Once it has finished, you will depart from the apartment and head over to your next hot chocolate spot for tasting. You will leave the chocolates that you made in the apartment for cooling. It will be packaged and returned to you at the end of the tour so that you can take your chocolates home and enjoy them.
Surprisingly, this tour covers more than chocolate!
Like me, I am sure that you will enjoy experiencing the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, which is where a number of the chocolate houses mentioned in the tour have a home. As you walk through the Galeries, you will also be taught about its history including the fact that it was the work of the architect, Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer in 1847. The reason that I share this with you is because whilst being called a Chocolate Tour & Workshop, Global Enterprises is offering you so much more as you learn about the history of the beautiful city of Brussels from the beginning to the end of the tour.
For example, when you start the tour at Grand Place, you will be taught about how famous Grand Place is to Brussels for social, cultural and political life including the fact that it is now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the Grand Place square is Hotel de Ville, which will also be pointed out to you. It is a famous Gothic building from the Middle Ages and was built in 1400 and is now used as a Town Hall. Whilst you walk from the major chocolate sites for sampling, you will see the Manneken Pis, the Gothic St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, the Royal Palace and parts of the Sablon district. Along the way, you will also see a number of incredible Art Nouveau houses and will learn about their architecture.
The best way to avoid tourist traps and become a chocolate expert
Having an honest, personable and inclusive guide teaching you about chocolate, quality and pricing will certainly help you in learning about which chocolate bests suits your taste and is manageable within your budget. Through this tour, you will learn to avoid the tourist trap of chocolate shops and will become an educated chocolatier who is ready to go out into the city and subsequently purchase chocolate at your own leisure for keepsake (well, for your palate).
Whilst the cost of the Chocolate Tour & Workshop is quite steep, it is certainly worth it and this very necessary, top-notch and sweet excursion is suitable for the solo traveller, couples and or families. Please note, however, that this type of a tour is not suitable for those with very young children or those suffering from certain disabilities due to the significant amount of walking involved on uneven cobbled surfaces.