Chocolaterie Vanlieff’s, Walcourt
As if it needed clarifying, this has nothing to do with commercial chocolate. Here, the pralines are to die for. It’s to Chastrès, and more specifically to the chocolaterie Vanlieff’s, that we’re taking you.
“These are almond pralines; pecan next to them; this is a salted caramel one and this one is one of our latest creations, date“, explains Martine Vanliefferinge, chocolatier. No fewer than 40 different types of praline are displayed in the window. There’s something for every taste. At Christmas, the chocolaterie sells up to 65 different types.
The family home quickly became too small
Martine Vanliefferinge started her chocolaterie business with her partner Daniel in 1989, in her home. Very quickly, they realised that this was too small. Their aim? To expand the workshop but also to establish a shop and reception area. So they moved to Chastrès, in the borough of Walcourt.
For the couple, the chocolaterie is a world which they share with their friends. The small shop quickly became a meeting place. ‘We had up to 40 customers here during the new year celebrations. Everyone was mixing together, regardless of social status, from the village road-mender to the lawyer. And there is always a good atmosphere: there is always somebody to share a joke or anecdote with.’ It’s a good thing: Martine Vanliefferinge loves explaining how the pralines are made or stored.
She has also set up a demonstration space behind the shop.
They organise tastings, chocolate-making workshops, meals… all good excuses to taste the chocolate.
Top priority: the quality of the chocolate
What makes good praline is primarily expertise but also the quality of the base products. ‘We work with Valrhona chocolate, of which the parent company is in France,’ explains Daniel. This choice is determined by the quality of the product but also ethical values. ‘The company guarantees to respect the cocoa plantations and the workers. And for me, that’s very important, especially in terms of sustainability for the next generation.’
The chocolaterie Vanlieff’s works with three types of chocolate: dark, milk and cocoa butter (called ‘white chocolate’).
Chocolate with 70% cocoa content, 85% in some cases, is used. The milk chocolate contains 46% milk.
Making the paste follows the same logic. ‘Neither sugar nor butter is added to the base product. The hazelnut paste contains 66% nuts, a really intense paste. We use real vanilla pods, not vanilla essence. It tastes better and is higher quality. We don’t use chemicals or flavour enhancers: real cream, real eggs.’
Daniel and Martine, with the help of an employee, can make up to 20 kilos of pralines per day. In addition to chocolate, Martine also makes jams with the fruit from her garden.
Chocolate which travels involuntarily
Most customers come from an approximate surrounding area of 40 km. But that’s not always the case: some customers also come from Brussels, Namur or even from Liège.
And of course, the pralines travel: the customers take them in their luggage to Miami or Lithuania! Some end up in the hands of a Masai on a trip to Africa, others are offered as gifts at the Palais Royal, or on Erasmus exchanges throughout the world…
Allée J. F. Kennedy, 2
+32 (0)71 63 46 30