About Careers Internship MedBlog Contact us

Belgian Chocolatier Who Goes 'Bean-to-bar' for Best Tasting Dark Chocolate

by Dr. Trupti Shirole on December 25, 2015 at 12:39 AM
Font : A-A+

 Belgian Chocolatier Who Goes 'Bean-to-bar' for Best Tasting Dark Chocolate

Most of the world's major chocolate makers buy their chocolate ready-made from a small group of multinational firms which mix beans from different sources for a more consistent taste.

But, in a country where chocolate is a source of national pride, Belgian chocolate maker Benoit Nihant is one of around a dozen 'bean-to-bar' makers who go direct to the source in Africa, the Americas and Asia to get the best possible taste. Nihant said, "Chuao, Baracoa, Hacienda Rio Peripa: when it comes to cocoa beans, it turns out there are vintages just like there are for fine wines."


And it is the Chuao plantation on Venezuela's Caribbean coast, where the beans dry beneath the sun in the village square before a blue and yellow church, that produces the finest chocolate in the world, experts say.

The select group including Nihant and his fellow Belgian Pierre Marcolini are now trying to transform the often traditional world of chocolate making by mastering the process from the bean harvest to the creation of elaborate confections.

"It took us three or four years to really master, to understand the impact of the work on the plantations on the chocolate itself," says the 41-year-old Nihant at his shop in Awans, near Liege in southern Belgium.

After starting out as an iron and steel engineer in the Belgian rustbelt, Nihant says he had a revelation just before he turned 30 years. He said, "I suddenly realized that I hadn't chosen my career, my destiny. I really wanted to create something, and to live my passion on a daily basis."

That passion was chocolate, accounting for the attention to detail that now informs his work.

Nihant explains, "Good chocolate is made with love. Good chocolate is made with beans which come from a small plantation, which have been chosen and not mixed with the harvest from a neighboring plantation. It's chocolate where the grower is aware of what the chocolatier wants and respects all the steps of fermentation and drying without taking shortcuts."

For his chocolate, Nihant has hand-picked nine plantations after a series of journeys, in Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba, Madagascar and Bali in Indonesia. Soon he hopes to source beans from Peru, where he recently bought land. He imports 25 tonnes of beans a year in a country that produces a massive 650,000 tonnes of chocolate a year, mostly by big brands including Godiva, Leonidas and Neuhaus.

Going direct to the source does not come cheap, though. Nihant buys his beans for between six and 12 euros ($6.50 to $13) per kilogram, whereas ready-made chocolate is sold to manufacturers for 3.50 euros per kilo.

Chocolate fans pay the price in the end for their pleasure: a 50-gram (nearly 2-ounce) Benoit Nihant bar costs between 4.20 euros and 7.20 euros.

It's not just the cocoa beans that have been taken back to their roots.

Behind a big window in his workshop, watched by curious customers, are two huge machines.

One dates from the 1950s and was rescued from an abandoned chocolate factory in Asia. The other, for grinding, has two huge granite wheels which turn the roasted and crushed beans into chocolate liquor, the base for all recipes.

The machine dates from the 19th-century and was being used as a decoration in a factory in Greece, but was restored thanks to the know-how of Belgian workers.

Nihant said, "These are the techniques which give you flavor. It is the operator's job to determine when the cooking process is finished, a crucial yet precise step which extracts the taste from the cocoa. It's this process that allows me to make a 70% dark chocolate that has strong taste without the bitterness."

The chocolatier has made his own expertise the centerpiece of his Christmas window display: five stars representing each of the 'grand cru' or major 'vintages' of chocolates that he makes.

The one in the middle is stuffed with praline made with lightly salted pecans.

Nihant started off his business in the garage of his parents-in-law and in 10 years he has expanded three times.

Today, he has four shops in Belgium while his chocolate is also sold in around a dozen shops in Japan and is in talks to open in China and the United States, as well as a tie-in with the famed Harrods department store in London. He said, "We are a generation which is turning tradition and the old way of doing things on its head. We're doing our bit for the Belgian tradition."

Source: AFP

News A-Z
What's New on Medindia
World Heart Day in 2022- Use Heart for Every Heart
Anemia among Indian Women and Children Remains a Cause of Concern- National Family Health Survey-5
H1N1 Influenza Prevention in Children: What Parents Need to Know
View all
Recommended Reading
News Archive
News Category

Medindia Newsletters Subscribe to our Free Newsletters!
Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

More News on:
Caffeine and Decaffeination Know Chocolates Better Food Gifts for Your Valentine Food Combinations that Affect Your Well-being Top Foods for Naturally Glowing Face and Radiant Skin Seven Surprisingly Healthy Foods Best Gift for your Valentine: Good Health Dark Chocolate vs. Milk Chocolate vs. White Chocolate 

Most Popular on Medindia

The Essence of Yoga Find a Hospital Loram (2 mg) (Lorazepam) Iron Intake Calculator Post-Nasal Drip Drug - Food Interactions Indian Medical Journals How to Reduce School Bag Weight - Simple Tips Find a Doctor Diaphragmatic Hernia
This site uses cookies to deliver our services. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms of Use

Belgian Chocolatier Who Goes 'Bean-to-bar' for Best Tasting Dark Chocolate Personalised Printable Document (PDF)

Please complete this form and we'll send you a personalised information that is requested

You may use this for your own reference or forward it to your friends.

Please use the information prudently. If you are not a medical doctor please remember to consult your healthcare provider as this information is not a substitute for professional advice.

Name *

Email Address *

Country *

Areas of Interests