Bruges Chocolaterie making thousands of artisan chocolates during holiday season
Columbia native Christina Miles knows more about chocolate than the average person. Although she grew up in the Midlands, she spent some time in Belgium, where she developed an appreciation for the higher quality flavor and taste in Belgian chocolate.
“It just tasted so much better than what I grew up with,” she said.
After Miles returned to South Carolina, she created Bruges Chocolaterie, on 3015 Millwood Avenue in Columbia. The business is named after Bruges, Belgium, the town where Miles discovered her love for the sweet treat. “It’s just a small town with a river running through it, with chocolate. And that’s kind of who we are: just a small company that makes artisan chocolate,” she said.
Miles is not just the owner, but also the “head chocolatier,” doing much of the creating and decorating herself. There are more than 11 types of chocolate bon bons Bruges offers with caramels and ganaches inside. Miles said she enjoys creating uniquely flavored ganaches to offer true artisan chocolates. Flavors range from traditional coffee and salted caramel, to strawberry balsamic, bananas foster, and French lavender. Bold flavors recently created include Mexican molé (a chili pepper spice mixed with cinnamon), matcha and mint (a green tea flavor with white and dark chocolate), and makrut lime (an Asian-inspired lime flavor).
Miles creates the flavors on her own. “I think of them, or I might see something internationally or from my travels, like the molé or makrut lime. I really like international things,” she said.
The filling may taste delicious, but the decorative visual is the most attention-grabbing part of the chocolate. “We use colored cocoa butter to paint our chocolate, with actual paint brushes. All the strokes are hand made,” she said. “Then we go through the process of tempering the chocolates to give it that nice crisp shine.” All the bon bons range in visual appearance. Some are decorated with splatter paint, some have an intricate stamped design, while others have multi-colored brush strokes.
Since the chocolates are hand-painted, Miles said two of the same kind may look slightly different on top. But she said it’s important to her that the taste remains the same. “People do say I’m a bit particular, but I want it to taste just right,” Miles laughed.
The holiday season is the busiest time of the year for Bruges, according to Miles, but she said she enjoys it. “They’re perfect gifts for the holidays, so we really enjoy the Christmas season and it’s a very busy time for us.”
Miles said there is still time to place orders for Christmas. More information can be found at brugeschocolaterie.com. The store is located at 3015 Millwood Ave., with special holiday hours from now until Christmas Day: Friday from noon to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Monday from noon to 4 p.m.