Julia and Björn are just as open, sharing their philosophy with customers and inviting them to see how their chocolate is made. They also sell other bean-to-bar chocolate. The ‘Salty-licious’ bars from the Grenada Chocolate Company particularly catches my eye, encased in orange packaging and a hand-painted sea-view on its cover. I am intrigued that an exotic island is producing its own chocolate. “This company ships its chocolate by sailboat to Amsterdam, and then it makes its way here by bike,” beams Björn in awe. “Every chocolate maker has its own story,” adds Julia, “we understand their stories, and the effort and the appreciation they put into it. We want to share this with our customers.”
The name ‘Mike & Becky’ is a clever play on the surnames of Julia and Björn, who are also wife and husband. As well as making chocolate, Mike & Becky serve hot chocolate and cakes. Their café-cum-chocolate factory is on Avenue Brugmann in Uccle, conveniently situated at the crossroads of trams and bus routes. Their hot chocolate is warm and soothing, not too sweet or milky, and the chocolate leaves its signature aftertaste.
Hot chocolate is what triggered the idea behind Mike & Becky. Whilst visiting Prague in March 2015, the couple stumbled upon Chococafe, a hot chocolate café. There were lots of variety of hot chocolate to choose from and the quality just blew them away. The couple had no chocolate-making background but they fell in love with the idea of making hot chocolate almost instantly, and thought they could do something similar in Brussels, especially as a good hot chocolate is a surprising rarity.
Even though the chocolate idea was relatively unfamiliar, the entrepreneurs had been thinking about their future for a couple of years beforehand. They were both in office jobs (Julia still has hers) and they seriously considered whether they wanted to keep the status quo until retirement. Thus began the inquiry into other options: “It was a process, not a ‘eureka!’ moment,” remarks Julia. Although on the face of it, it may seem that their leap from the office to chocolate workspace is large, their backgrounds tell a different story. Julia is an artist, she trained as a ballerina in Moscow; Bjorn studied fair trade and development policy. Creativity and ethics, born out of their backgrounds, are the core elements of their business.
The entrepreneurs agree that being partners has made running a business much easier, since they are able to confide in one another and sound off ideas. There were doubts along the way, whether they come from the couple themselves or their peers. Even so, the most important thing is to keep it together, recommends Julia: “You need to have your own inner centre to fall back on. You need to believe in yourself.”
I have been diligently savouring Mike & Becky’s chocolate throughout this writing process. Perhaps it’s my taste buds that have finally re-oriented, or perhaps after inhaling Mike & Becky’s passion and dedication, I fully appreciate their hard work and principles. Whatever it is, this chocolate is delicious. Mike & Becky are true to their word: it tastes real, it tastes honest.