For the love of chocolate
TEXT: BERTHE VAN DEN HURK | PHOTOS: BELCOLADE
Belgian chocolate: probably the best pairing of words. Its reputation has always been one of great taste and superior quality. In the village of Erembodegem, Belcolade, the real Belgian chocolate brand of Puratos, produces some of the best chocolate the country has to offer.
Belcolade was founded in 1988 and has remained a family business. The owners’ love for chocolate is much more than always pursuing the highest quality ingredients and achieving superior taste. Preserving the heritage of real Belgian Chocolate is their biggest goal. The family recipes are still in use and perfected over the years, but the company also safeguards the future of chocolate with their sustainable cacao programme.
Sustainability as win-win.
Puratos’ sustainability programme is called Cacao-Trace. It has all the required parts of sustainable certification, but with an additional element. The fermentation of the cocoa beans is fully under the control of the company. It is just as great wine depends on how its grapes are fermented, the more expertly fermented the cocoa beans, the better the final chocolate will taste. In post-harvest centres close to cocoa farmers, expert fermenters monitor and improve the fermentation process and check the quality of the cocoa beans. This ensures Belcolade Cacao-Trace chocolate will have a consistently exceptional taste.
Laura Remory explains: “Our sustainable cacao sourcing program is an added value for everyone. From growing the cocoa to the end customer, everything is done with a long-term perspective. This is how we improve the taste of our chocolate; by increasing the quality of the ingredients in our chocolate.” Also, elaborating on the close relationship with the farmers, Laura continues:“at Belcolade we love long-term thinking and good partnerships. The farmers are trained and educated on growing the best quality cacao beans and preserving the fragile ecosystem.”
The chocolate bonus
For chocolate famers, it can be difficult to provide a good life for their families, and children of the farmers often decide to work elsewhere to make more money. On the other hand, the global demand for good quality chocolate is increasing by the day. “Therefore, we chose to not only pay the Cacao-Trace farmers a premium for good quality cacao, but also to give an additional chocolate bonus.”
Per kilogramme of chocolate sold, ten cents goes back to the farming communities. It is comparable to one or two extra months of salary each year. “The love for chocolate ensures the future of chocolate,” says Remory. “By creating value with better tasting chocolate and sharing that value back with cocoa farming communities, we believe we increase the durability and build on a sustainable future for chocolate.”
Puratos has close and long-term relationships with farmers in Vietnam, Ivory-Coast, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. The goal is to expand to more countries every year, however, only if it can be done as a long-term partnership.
Shades of chocolate
Besides the strong investment in sustainable production and looking for the world’s best chocolate, Belcolade also hosts workshops for professionals such as pastry chefs, culinary artists and others involved in chocolate. Remory: “We demonstrate chocolate techniques for professionals, teach them new recipes and we are always innovating.”
The latest book Bleu Chocolat illustrates 100 pieces of chocolate art that will blow your mind, the work of Belcolade chocolate genius and artist Stéphane Leroux. “It is all about the survival of the profession and the love for chocolate,” adds Remory. “Chocolate is so much more than only white, brown and dark chocolate. There is a richness and complexity about it that has more than three shades. We want to share that with the world.”