Taste Flanders’ gift to the world

Drinking coffee without a tasty treat alongside is unthinkable. You’ve come to the right place in Flanders! This is the birthplace of pralines, just what you’re looking for to go with that lovely coffee.

“A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” Mary Poppins sang it with a smile but learned this wisdom in Brussels. That is where, somewhere near the end of the 19th century, pharmacist Jean Neuhaus was looking for a way to disguise his medicines’ bitter taste. He found a chocolate coating to be the ideal solution. He didn’t know then that this would prove to be the foundation of an entirely new world. Decades later, his grandson Jean Junior made another small step for man and a giant leap for mankind: he left out the medication and replaced it with a filling as delectable as the coating. With this act, the world’s first filled chocolate bonbon, or praline, was born.

This was the beginning of a unique journey. Pralines conquered the globe, and Brussels established itself as the world capital of chocolate. Pralines were also a success for Neuhaus personally. Still today, the Neuhaus company is a top producer of chocolate and pralines. Symbolically, the headquarters are still in the stately Saint-Hubert Galleries where Jean Senior once began his adventure. Here they are surrounded by similarly minded alchemists of taste. Top chocolatiers such as Pierre Marcolini, Corné Port-Royal, Godiva, and Leonidas can all be found in the Brussels gallery.

The heavenly sweetness of Belgian pralines © Kris Jacobs
The heavenly sweetness of Belgian pralines, © Kris Jacobs.

Over the decades, these peerless craftspeople have continued to expand the universe of taste. Their drive for perfection focuses on your taste buds and exemplifies the trailblazing craftsmanship so characteristic of Flanders. However, pralines are more than just a tradition in Flanders. Progress is continuous and constant.

Just as our current artists build on foundations laid by the Flemish Masters of old, so do our chocolatiers. Many new generations have since emerged. Each has taken those pralines on their own journey. The Persoone chocolate dynasty is a perfect example. Self-proclaimed shock-o-latier Dominique Persoone put rock ’n roll into pralines. He once developed a cocoa-sniffing machine for a Rolling Stones birthday party and is also responsible for the desserts at various Michelin-starred restaurants.

His son Julius has followed in his footsteps. This young talent produces unique taste sensations through innovative techniques. How about a praline filling consisting of vegan foie gras, fig jam, and toasted brioche, for example? Or one with seawater jelly, crunchy seaweed, and caramelized shrimp heads?

What kind of coffee you order doesn’t really matter. A cup of tea or glass of milk is fine too, just as long as it comes with a praline. A classic treat or a rock ’n roll taste sensation: you can find both in Flanders.

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