When you think of Hungarian chocolate, not much comes to mind. Even if you live in Hungary, the unchallenging chocolate produced by formerly state-owned companies, or the grocery-store bought chocolate of the multinationals doesn’t get the mouth watering or the imagination sparking. But it turns out there is amazing, sophisticated high-end chocolate to be had that is produced locally, and the interesting part of the story is that it is produced by a Syrian company.
Ghraoui Chocolate company recently opened a flagship store on Budapest’s tony Andrássy Avenue, joining prestigious brands like Burberry, Herendi, and Louis Vuitton. It is a long way from the working class district of Csepel Island where its factory is located, but much farther from Damascus, Syria, where the company has its origins. Founded over 200 years ago in 1805, the brand originally traded in commodities like sugar, coffee, tea and fruit. According to the company’s site: “After a visit to France in 1931, Sadek Ghraoui decided to introduce quality chocolate to consumers in the Middle East; to people used to traditional Arabic confectioneries, artisan chocolate was a new delicacy and a culinary discovery”.
Success seemed assured as the reputation of Ghraoui chocolate grew throughout the region and beyond. Indeed, their confections were available in England’s most iconic department stores like Fortnum & Mason, and Herrod’s, as well as in Fauchon and Hediard in Paris. Due to political turmoil in Syria, however, in the middle part of the twentieth century the company was twice nationalized, at one point leaving but one retail store in the hands of the Ghraoui family. But the company persevered, and again rebounded on an international scale, being “awarded the ‘Prix d’honneur’ award in 2005 at the most exclusive chocolate fair in Europe, the Salon du Chocolat trade fair in Paris.”
It would be in the wake of the civil war in Syria that in 2012 that Ghraoui finally closed operations in Damascus, electing to open a factory in Hungary, a place they had business ties. In addition to those employed by their retail outlet, the factory employs upwards of fifty people. According to the site welovebudapest, “The company’s main goal is to reintroduce the Ghraoui brand as a Hungarian product and they commissioned a dozen Syrian chocolatiers to provide all the necessary training to the local team. To honour the host country, a distinct Magyar line has recently been featuring such treats as Coeur de Budapest (Heart of Budapest), Jardine de Sissi (Sissi’s Garden, after the Habsburg empress) and Couronne de Saint Étienne (Crown of St. Stephen, Hungary’s first king).”
Fabled American news anchor Diane Sawyer once visited Ghraoui Chocolates and asked if there were indeed the best chocolate makers in the world. If that is true, then chocolate in Hungary is famous after all, but with a Syrian twist. This all makes for a very sweet story for Ghraoui Chocolate. With a tasty flavor combination of Damascus and Budapest, how could it be otherwise?
Flatpack Films has many years of experience dedicated to offering expert servicing. It has brought the best of Hungary to countless brands, agencies, and production companies through its unique locations, exceptionally skilled crews, top of the line equipment and technical solutions. Backed by an impeccable track record, Flatpack Films has worked with world-class clients including Samsung, Samsonite, Toyota, Braun, Chivas Regal and many more - bringing their projects to life through a highly bespoke approach.