I’m lucky to live in a country where good chocolate is cheap and widely available. Though there are a few chocolates I’m not a huge fan of, I could happily eat Milka, Tony’s Chocolonely and Kinder chocolate for the rest of my life. But I’ve also worked as a confectionary expert at the airport, where I got to know the more expensive luxury brands. Are they worth the price? We’re trying two Belgian luxury classics today: Godiva and Neuhaus!
A bit of history
Godiva | Lady Godiva’s famous ride
Godiva is arguably the most famous brand of luxury chocolates worldwide. Founded in 1926 by Joseph Draps, it’s now owned by the Turkish Yıldız Holding. Godiva is named after Lady Godiva, the wife of Leofric, Lord of Coventry. Leofric had levied crippling taxes on the people of Coventry, and joked that he would lower the taxes if Godiva would ride horseback through the town naked. And so she did – Lady Godiva rode through the town, covered only in her long hair, after ordering everyone to stay home and not peek. One man named Tom did, and he was struck blind. Now you know where “peeping Tom” comes from. See, chocolate is educational! Oh, and Leofric honoured his promise/joke and lowered the taxes. This is the story anyway, though exactly how much of it is true is unknown.
Back to the chocolate – Godiva has over 600 retail boutiques and is sold at more than 10,000 specialty retailers all over the world. The chocolate is not only made in Belgium, but in the US as well. Godiva chocolates made in the US taste different from the European ones, because they use different base ingredients. Though I haven’t tried them personally, they’re supposedly sweeter than their European counterparts.
Neuhaus | Inventor of the praline
Neuhaus is named after Jean Neuhaus, a Swiss apothecary who moved to Brussels and opened his shop there in 1857. To make the medicines he sold more palatable, Neuhaus came up with the idea to cover them in chocolate. This turned out to be a big success, and together with his son he spent more and more time creating new delicacies. When this son passed away, it was his other son who carried on the legacy and invented the chocolate-filled bonbons or pralines as we know them today. When his wife noticed that the chocolates were being crushed in the bags, she invented the gift wrap box (the ballotin), which was later patented and is still used to this day.
All Neuhaus chocolates are still made in Belgium, near Brussels and exported all over the world to 1,500 retailers. They’re also the official supplier to the Belgian Royal Court.
We got small boxes of Godiva (11,95, 10 pc) and Neuhaus (11,50, 6 pc) to try. I have to note that this small box of Neuhaus is overpriced compared to their larger boxes, so you’re better off getting a bigger box if you want to try it for yourself. Frank and I both don’t really like alcohol in chocolate, so we got the alcohol-free kind. First, let’s have a look!
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Both Godiva and Neuhaus look good, though Neuhaus wins the beauty pageant in my opinion. But most importantly: what about the taste?
Godiva tastes good, the chocolate doesn’t taste sugary (the main reason I dislike some chocolate brands) and it’s nice and creamy. What I notice is that some of the pralines feel lumpy in the mouth, instead of the melting smoothness I’d expect from a luxury chocolate. Though I’m by no means disappointed by the chocolate, I don’t find anything about it particularly memorable either. I’ve had more interesting pralines from local chocolatiers.
Neuhaus on the other hand immediately feels more delicate. The outer shells are much thinner than Godiva’s and especially the dark chocolate has a very rich flavour. The chocolates are generally less sweet compared to Godiva. The pralines feel silky smooth as they melt in your mouth, especially the swirly cornet that’s made entirely of gianduja, a hazelnut paste chocolate. My second favourite is a dark chocolate praline with a soft, runny salted caramel filling. The flavours of this praline pass through your mouth one after another, starting with dark chocolate, salt, then caramel, a slight bitterness and finally it leaves a dark chocolate aftertaste that lingers for quite some time.
All in all, Neuhaus is the winner here – though the small box we got was overpriced. Godiva is still good chocolate, but especially since the larger boxes of both brands are comparable in price, I would always go for Neuhaus rather than Godiva. The quality seems to reflect the history of both brands, with Neuhaus being the one that actually played a pivotal role in the history of chocolate. But you should go and try them for yourself!