As we near the end of our ice cream season, it can only mean one thing…
And with the start of chocolate season comes Chocolate Week.
Now in its 12th year, this is the UK’s biggest celebration of all things chocolate. It’s when the best of the best as well as the nation are brought together to celebrate one of our favourite things – chocolate!
After a trip to Belgium last month I spent 4 days visiting good, better and the best chocolatiers in the business. With a minimum wage of around £25 per hour (yes, you read that correctly), it’s no wonder machines are used to produce so much of the chocolate that comes out of Belgium. However, there was one exception and not just the last place on our itinerary or the biggest, but most definitely the best.
Pralineur Van Coillie started his business in 1976 when he was 40 years old after perfecting his skills in France and Switzerland and has dedicated his life to being the best in the business. His skills are renowned throughout the industry in Belgium and he’s gaining popularity in the UK too. He has already won the the Tasting Club of Great Britain 3 times and has a worldwide fan base of elite corporate customers.
The factory still produces most of their chocolates by hand under the leadership of his lovely grandson Alexandre, with Mr Van Coillie keeping a watchful eye over production and their team of over 20 highly skilled staff. Alexandre told us all about their partnership programme with cocoa farmers in West Africa along with Barry Callebaut to ensure the chocolate and cocoa supply chain is sustainable and everyone in these communities are taught how best to manage their farms in order to improve conditions for their families.
He then gave us an extensive tour of his wonderful showroom and factory where we watched his amazing chocolate shoes being created, dipped and filled with his exquisite chocolates.
After 4 days of tasting a LOT of chocolate, this visit with Alexandre and his mother did NOT disappoint. I’ve always said there is nothing like fresh ice cream just coming out of our machine and it’s the same with chocolate. When it’s just been enrobed in quality chocolate, then decorated by hand and sprinkled with the finest Piedmont roasted hazelnuts there’s nothing quite like it.
In case you didn’t know, we’ve been stocking Van Coillie chocolates in our cabinet for over 10 years but it’s not until now did WE really value their quality. We’re expanding on the range for this season and you’ll start to see a lot more Van Coillie chocolates in our cabinet over the coming weeks.
Of course, there’s also the shoes which are already in stock and do we ladies need an excuse to buy shoes?
Happy Chocolate Week!