The confectionery and chocolaterie Vanparys began as a family business founded in 1889 by Felix Vanparys, near the fashionable Sablon neighbourhood in the heart of Brussels. The recipe and preparation of Felix’s original dragees are still attentively followed… with rich Belgian chocolate, or the finest selection of almonds coated with a thin layer of sugar, all carefully prepared in traditional, rotating copper vats, at precise temperatures, at an exact number of revolutions.
Moreover, Vanparys has extended its expertise and range of treats to include today a wide array of chocolate-covered gourmet delights – coated nuts, fruits and coffee beans – as well as a variety of seasonal confectioneries to accompany any celebration, any time of the year. This is the Vanparys heritage, carried on through generations and present ever still. The highest quality, brilliant colours, a passion for chocolate, a flair for invention and an enduring pursuit for the perfect taste.
“Dragee” – a taste of tradition
The dragee is among the oldest candy traditions in the world. While its exact origins are somewhat contested, it is generally accepted that the sweet originated in the Mediterranean.
One popular legend tells of the ancient Roman Julius Dragatus, who is said to have created the first dragee when he accidently let an almond fall into a pot of honey… Delighted by his discovery, the great confectioner offered his newfound candy as a gift for the birth of his son, thus starting a Roman tradition of consuming dragees for births and weddings.
In 1120 the recipe took a new twist. An apothecary from Northern France dipped dried almonds into a mix of honey and sugar, forming a hard coating. Though this next variety of dragee was far from the smooth refined candies we enjoy today, it didn’t really matter… dragees had been adopted for pharmaceutical use, given to pregnant women and to men to help improve their virility! In the 16th century, a more refined version of the candy received favour from the French King and Queen.
During the early 20th century, when almonds were scarce due to a bad harvest, the Belgian chocolatier Vanparys decided to replace it with an almond-shaped nugget of chocolate. This new, successful type of dragee was eventually copied by the competition and has since become more popular across Europe than the traditional almond ones.
In recent times, across Europe and further afield, dragees have become synonymous with the promise of good fortune and prosperity. In Belgium, France and Italy, they are given at births and baptisms and, along with the US, for weddings and anniversaries as well. In Portugal, they are indulged in at Easter, and in Russia and Japan, they are a delicacy consumed just about any time of the year.
From ancient Rome to the Belle Époque to today, colourful, delectable dragees are used to celebrate life’s every moment.
A passion for chocolate
Chocolate is not merely a product, it is a passion! One anchored in centuries-long tradition. Every bite of Vanparys tells the story of its provenance, ingredients and a carefully prepared recipe exclusive only to our sweets.
Vanparys chocolate – from dark bitter or creamy milk to premium white – is a distinctive recipe of Belgian chocolate based on a unique mixture of sustainably grown cocoa beans from Ivory Coast, carefully selected and delicately roasted to our exacting specifications.
A cocoa story
The Aztec and Mayan civilisations were among the earliest consumers of cocoa, mixing it with corn, chili peppers and other spices for a range of dishes and drinks. Christopher Columbus and his crew are thought to be the first non-natives to come across the delight, and it is widely believed that the young Spanish explorer Hernan Cortez was the first to bring cocoa back to Europe. Europeans tweaked the preparation of cocoa, adding sugar to the mixture, which made the bitter treat more pleasing to their palate. This cocoa concoction was initially reserved for ladies in waiting in Spain and later in France, but was fully democratised by the 19th century.
The first cocoa factories were built in Switzerland (1819), France (1824) and in Belgium (1883). Meanwhile, the Portuguese planted the first cocoa in Sao Tome in Africa, and plantations soon spread to the Ivory Coast, Gold Coast and Nigeria. Further plantations were established across the Asia Pacific thanks to the introduction of cocoa in the East by the British and Dutch.
Today cocoa is widely consumed around the world with an annual cocoa bean yield at approximately three-and-a-half million tons per year, with 30% of that produced in Ivory Coast*!
“If there’s no chocolate in Heaven, I’m not going.” ― Jane Seabrook, Furry Logic Laugh at Life
* Statistic from Medicine Hunter – A brief history of cocoa
A passion for colour
Who doesn’t love a bit of eye candy?
Each season, Vanparys introduces a range of new colours to its already extensive palette. Recognising the power of colour and its subconscious effect on every aspect of life, our confectioners take great joy in pushing the limits of creativity, inventing new hues matte, glossy or pearlescent in harmony with latest trends, designed to reflect any mood or occasion.