With Maxime Pliester, owner of Concept Chocolate
Exclusively for Tauck (and with Valentine’s Day coming right around the corner) we invite you to join Maxime Pliester, owner and operator of Concept Chocolate in Brussels, Belgium. He’ll take you behind the scenes of his Belgium chocolate factory, explain his sourcing process (from bean to bar), give tips on how to do a proper chocolate tasting – and alongside his Master Chocolatier Fikry Selen, give a special Valentine’s Day chocolate treat demonstration. We’ll be joined by Tauck Senior Tour Architect Michelle Molnar, river cruise specialist (guests visit Concept Chocolate on Holland and Belgium in Spring and Yuletide Spirit: Amsterdam to Brussels).
Maxime, who celebrates his 33rd birthday 3 days after Valentine’s Day, is Belgian – multicultural influences include his Belgian mother, Dutch father and Greek wife; he speaks French, Dutch, Spanish, and English, and is the father of two young girls. He has been studying International Trade in Brussels, and has a Master’s in Hospitality Management from a Swiss school located in Marbella, Spain – in addition to Brussels, he’s worked in Shanghai, London and Dublin. About 10 years ago, he was in sales for the previous owner of the chocolate factory – and six years ago, he bought the company and renamed it Concept Chocolate. Each year brings new improvements: better quality (raw materials, origins, sustainable programs); better place (fully renovated, more energy efficient); better guest experiences (new workshops, new products) and this year, a new “Ice Cream Concept.”
Questions & Answers
When will your chocolate be available in the United States and Canada?
Working on it! I hope by the end of the year, but it does depend on several factors.
Do you have an email list that we can subscribe to?
Not yet! Please check back into my website www.conceptchocolate.eu in a few months!
Which tour includes visit to Concept Chocolate?
A visit to Concept Chocolate is included on our Holland & Belgium in Spring (2022) and Yuletide Spirit: Amsterdam to Brussels around the Holidays.
Do you have any suggestions for getting the optimal tasting experience?
I recommend this great website by chocolate producer Barry Callebaut, for tips.
Should milk chocolate and white chocolate also “snap” when you break it?
Yes, the snap sound is also valid for Dark, Milk and white chocolates.
What is the difference between dark chocolate and white chocolate?
White chocolate contains only cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids, no cocoa solids.
What chocolate do you serve with wine?
Many possibilities! First, it should be first something you like, but the most famous pairing is dark chocolate with the grape Grenache noir from Maury in France.
What is the best way to store chocolate bars over time?
Store in a cool and dry place, with a low percentage of humidity, less than 60%, and away from the light.
Does the white residue on older chocolate do anything to the taste?
If the white layer is recent, the taste will be still ok!
A lot of dark chocolate has a very dry texture because of the lower fat content. Belgian chocolate does not seem to have that problem—how do you get a better texture?
This is thanks to having a better balance/ratio of cocoa butter to cocoa solids.
What form is the milk in when you add it to make “milk chocolate?”
What are cocoa nibs?
Crushed beans into small pieces.
Which chocolate is caffeine free?
What is the percentage of cocoa for heart health in Belgian chocolate?
Above 70% cocoa content.
For people who don’t eat sugar or are on a Keto diet, would you ever consider marketing chocolate products with a sugar substitute?
In Belgium, we mainly use Maltitol, Stevia or Zusto as sugar substitutes.
Is milk chocolate vegan?
No, except if made with vegetable-based milk powder, for example, rice milk.
When melting chocolate, how can you tell if you have gone too far and is scorched?
Smell and texture – the fat/cocoa butter will be burned!
At what percentage does dark chocolate become bitter?
Not really a question of percentage but due to the origin. I got into detail when you visit me on tour!
In what form does the chocolate arrive to your factory from the origin countries?
First, the cocoa beans arrive from their origin countries to a larger processing factory. I work with Belcolade, because they use sustainable practices that match my philosophies. Belcolade then processes the cocoa beans into couverture chocolate using the recipe that I have specified that make the chocolate unique to my brand, Concept Chocolate.
Is there a shortage of cocoa in the world?
Not right now. The stock exchange helps to regulate the pricing and demand of cocoa. However, this could change with new emerging markets as they begin to increase their own chocolate consumption.
Could climate change have any effect on the cultivation and supply of cocoa beans?
Is there a region where cocoa beans are grown that is considered the best for chocolate?
Rare cacao varietals such as Nacional and Porcelana have been found in parts of northern South America, and many people regard those as some of the best cocoa beans in the world. The Caribbean island of Trinidad only grows trinitario cacao, a highly flavorful type of cacao developed on the island hundreds of years ago.
I see cocoa liquor as part of an ingredient at a chocolate bar. Can you please explain how this affects quality? Do you make any chocolates infused with liquor?
Chocolate liquor (cocoa liquor) is pure cocoa mass in solid or semi-solid form. Like the cocoa beans (nibs) from which it is produced, it contains both cocoa solids and cocoa butter in roughly equal proportion. It is produced from cocoa beans that have been fermented, dried, roasted, and separated from their skins. It is not alcohol “liquor.”
If cocoa butter is from the bean, what is the white stuff we see within the pod?
This is the white pulp. It will help for the beans fermentation.
Which season is the busiest for chocolate sales?
Easter and Christmas!
How do you temper large quantities of chocolate?
With a tempering machine, mine can tempered 90kg/hour and more industrial machine can tempered 800/1000kg of chocolate/hour.
How far is the store from the Grand Place (Grote Markt), central square of Brussels, Belgium?
About 15 minutes by car.
Do you offer hands on chocolate making classes for visitors?
Yes, we do!
How do you make complicated molds, like the Nikon camera mold you showed?
We make a real casting of the object using silicone.