- The production of chocolate in Brussels began in the 17th century. Christopher Columbus brought cocoa beans from the newly discovered Americas back to the court of Spain, where the first production and consumption took place. Acclaimed as a health-giving beverage, chocolate was long a closely guarded secret of Spanish producers, but the cocoa beans were being processed by the mid-17th century in the Spanish Netherlands, which became an important production center. Chocolate houses were founded at this time. In 1697, the mayor of Zurich, Switzerland, visited Brussels and, duly impressed, took cocoa beans back with him to start making chocolate there.Hand methods of production gave way to a mechanized cocoa-grinding process following the invention of the steam engine (mid-18th century). The invention of the cocoa press in 1828 allowed greater production and thus greater consumption. Chocolate was confined to its liquid form prior to 1847; when solid, eating chocolate was introduced in Britain. Milk chocolate first appeared in the late 1870s, invented by the Swiss Daniel Peter and Henri Nestlé.By 1846, firms located in Brussels accounted for approximately 14 percent of chocolate production in Belgium. The oldest of the major houses in Brussels in existence today is Neuhaus, founded in 1857 by the Swiss Jean Neuhaus. He opened a pharmacy at Galerie de la Reine 23 and began producing dark chocolate, then considered a medical aid. His son Frédéric opened a separate shop to sell chocolate sweets. Frédéric's son Jean and his wife Louise Agostini are credited with inventing the ballotin ("chocolate box"), which revolutionized the packaging of chocolates. The trade name of Côte d'Or dates from 24 April 1883, the name bequeathed by chocolate-maker Charles Neuhaus in reference to the Gold Coast, the source of a portion of his supply of cocoa beans. The characteristic image of an elephant, a palm tree, and three pyramids that has long identified the products dates from 1906, the year when production under Alimenta S.A. commenced. Cut off from quality sources of supply during World War II, the firm replaced the name Côte d'Or with that of Congobar from 1940 to 1946. Long located on rue Bara, production facilities were moved to newer and larger premises in Halle and Anderlecht. The firm was acquired by the Swiss producer Jacobs Suchard in 1987 and subsequently by Philip Morris (1990) and Kraft Jacobs Suchard (1993).Leonidas was founded in 1913 by Leonidas Kestekidis, a Greek immigrant to the United States who had won a bronze medal for his product at the Brussels World's Fair of 1910 and who moved to the city following his marriage to a local resident. He established a workshop at the Marché aux Grains. Mary Chocolatier was founded in 1919, at rue Royale 126 by Marie Delluc. The Godiva firm was opened by Joseph Draps in 1926.The praline was invented in France about 1671, and it was perfected in Belgium where it was introduced by the Neuhaus firm. A Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate was founded in July 1998 in the Maison des Ducs de Brabant on the Grand' Place.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.