Darcis chocolate factory

A tour of the Darcis chocolate factory

Profile picture for user Nicolas Koussa

Nicolas Koussa

Member for 5 years 8 months

An adventurer in the Ardennes

At Darcis, you can also join a chocolate academy workshop to make your own chocolate.

 Chocolate in all its many forms at Darcis

6 mins de gourmandise

 

Have you ever dreamt of anything more wonderful than visiting a world of chocolate? Well, at Verviers, there's an entire museum devoted to everything chocolate. During my visit, I tasted a few chocolate pralines and learned all about the fascinating history, with all its twists and turns, of this universally adored gourmet treat. 

 

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A museum you can eat

 

The chocolate museum can be found in one of the factories belonging to the famous Jean-Philippe Darcis. I collect my ticket, which comes with an audioguide and a box of... you've guessed it, chocolates! Three pralines to be tasted at different points of the tour. Don't give in to the temptation to devour them on the spot and, above all, don't make my mistake of holding the box in your hand during the tour. Imagine my horror when I found my second praline had melted half way through the visit!

 

Anyway, once inside the museum, you'll discover the fascinating history of chocolate. It's not surprising that this enticingly rich delicacy that melts in the mouth has been known for generations as "the food of gods".

Inside a Mayan temple

 

As I arrive in the first room, I find myself in a replica of a Mayan temple, feeling as if I've just made a huge leap through time and space. This is where I discover the origins of cocoa. About 4,000 years ago, it was such a precious commodity that it was sometimes even used as currency. Chocolate was first consumed by the Mayans and Aztecs, in the form of a bitter drink rather than the sweetened chocolate bars we're familiar with today. Apparently, it was the ancient American cultures who invented chocolate drinks, made from a cocoa bean paste that was blended with water, vanilla, honey and chilli pepper to produce a delicious, smooth frothy mixture. While the Aztecs attributed mystical magic properties to the cocoa bean, it remained unknown to Europeans, alas, until the 16th century.

 

All hands on deck!

 

Like any explorer, we board a ship for the next part of the tour. During his fourth mission to the Americas in 1502, Colombus and his crew seized a cargo vessel full of cocoa beans and other trade goods. But chocolate didn't appeal to the tastebuds of the first settlers. It wasn't until 1615 that cocoa found favour with the entourage of King Louis XIII, and finally became fashionable.

Various courses are available to learn how to make different types of confectionery, including macaroons, Easter eggs and chocolate pralines.

Bourgeois chocolate

In a bourgeois parlour dating from the French Revolution, I learn more about the chocolate epidemic that swept across Europe, the first chocolate manufacturers and the utensils used to serve what was then consumed only in liquid form. Then I come to the reconstitution of a boutique selling chocolate in every shape and form: bars, squares and pralines. Science has tamed cocoa, exalting and sweetening it to please every palate. That just about sums up the historical part of the tour, but this museum has many more secrets to reveal.

Darcis chocolate factory

From bean to praline

Have you ever wondered how chocolate is made? Step by step, the museum explains the origins of chocolate, from the cultivation of cocoa beans to their magical transformation into your favourite chocolate bar. This delicious treat begins its life as an ordinary cocoa bean ripening on a cacao tree. When the pods are ready they're harvested, cut open with machetes and emptied. In the room's tropical atmosphere, we discover the different species of cacao tree displayed on a map of the world. The region where cacao is grown affects its taste and quality. In a small screening room, we're shown images of the voyages of the man himself, Jean-Philippe Darcis.

 

Next, we reach the "workshop" part of the museum. We can see the artisans at work, transforming the cocoa beans into chocolate bars, pralines and other delicacies before our very eyes. Here is where we fully appreciate the infinite number of possibilities this product has to offer. Chocolate goes with just about anything. In fact, there's a whole room dedicated to the diversity of ingredients used in the chocolate factory. We have fun sniffing at metal containers and trying to guess what ingredients are inside. The aromas of vanilla, cinnamon and caramel make my mouth water. But I must admit, I found the smells of yuzu and thyme a little disconcerting.

Time for a tasting session

 

That was the perfect tour to work up an appetite! At the museum exit, the tearoom serves all sorts of chocolate treats, including cakes, desserts, ice creams and, of course, pralines. All washed down with a hot or cold drink. Disloyal, I choose coffee to drink with my praline and delicious chocolate caramel cake.

 

At Darcis, you can also join a chocolate academy workshop to make your own chocolate. Various courses are available to learn how to make different types of confectionery, including macaroons, Easter eggs and chocolate pralines. There are even specific workshops for children! What better way to learn about chocolate than making it yourself? As well as eating it! 

 

Try this experience
Le musée du chocolat - Chocolaterie Darcis
Esplanade de la Grâce, 1 - 4800 Verviers
+32 87 71 72 73
Darcis chocolate factory website
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