On every farm in the past in Zeeland babbelaars were made. After all, the ingredients were available everywhere; butter, sugar vinegar and water. Every island in Zeeland had another name for the babbelaar; ‘smousje, slice, blokje or kokkiene’. The word babbelaar comes from ‘babbelen’ what means chatting or persistently talking. Very suitable for a candy. At the second cup of coffee or tea a babbelaar was served. As a result, people continued to ‘babbel’ (chat) for a long time. Sugar bakers also started baking and selling this candy. First in glass bottles, then in the familiar cans with images of traditional costumes from Zeeland. JB Diesch is the only one who still bakes these delicacies, also know as old Dutch butterscotch.
JB Diesch and the babbelaars are inextricably linked. Since 1892, this family bakes the babbelaar and the recipe was transferred from father to son. First in a shop on the Herenstraat, then from a store on the Lange Burg and then, after the WWII, in the bakery behind the shop on the Markt van Middelburg. That store has been preserved in the original state. The bakery was moved to Koudekerke, where the JB Diesch babbelaars are still being baked.
1820 - The sugar baker
Just a piece of history; the story of JB Diesch starts in 1820! When opening Cornels Felix Diesch, originally from Switzerland, a shop in sugar works at the Herenstraat in Middelburg. Whether or not he already made a babbelaar there and sold that we can not say with certainty, but that the basis was laid for the company JB Diesch that still makes real Zeeuwse Boterbabbelaars. The last JB Diesch followed his great-grandfather in 1925 and sat at the time with his shop at the Lange Burg. Large bottles of handmade babbelaars were on the counter. In 1925, the first can was on the market. That was immediately a success and still is.
What we know for sure from the tradition is that JB Diesch has been baking and selling babbelaars since 1892. From their bakery called “In den Zoeten Inval”, they cook the babbelaar people as they still do today. They are crowned with gold. On the shield that used to be on the shop front there is a spell which means as much as “honestly takes the longest” And actually this spell still applies after all those years!
1925 - the first can
The first JB Diesch buys second-hand machines in 1924, originally from the 1800s, to experience the babbelaar. These are still used in the traditional manufacture of the babbelaars. In 1925, the first tin with the image of a farmer’s wife in original costume is on the market, in which the babbelaars are packed. A great success with the people from Zeeland, tourists and collectors. The window of JB Diesch seems to have been a real crowd puller because of the attractive display of the cans, especially around the festive season.
1940 -The emergency store
On May 10, 1940 the center of Middelburg is heavily bombed. In 1945, JB Diesch first involved an emergency store and then a completely new store on the Markt. There is still a store of JB Diesch with, how could it be otherwise, a lot of babbelaars, cans and now also the various JB Diesch chocolate bars. The case was transferred to the Christiaansen family in 1964. Bas Christiaansen is still the babbelaar baker and still cooks in the bakery in Koudekerke in an artisanal way the babbelaar.
2011- A new wind
In 2011 Wouter Nolen takes over the business of Bas Christiaansen. New innovations are coming; new cans and chocolate bars such as the JB Diesch bar of Belgian chocolate enriched with old Dutch butterscotch are immediately a resounding success. Not only because of the combination of the full Belgian Fairtrade chocolate and the pieces of real babbelaar ; the new logo of a Zeeland girl on it is also attractive and recognizable. In addition, there are HeartBreak bars on the market that appeal internationally. The Zeeuwse Hartjes bars with farmers’ packaging are particularly popular in Zeeland. The can that comes out in 2013 in honor of the coronation of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maximà is a collectors item
In September 2018, JB Diesch will organize a competition among students from Food Lab Zeeland to develop ‘the Zeeland babbler of the future’ and a ‘Limited Edition’ can is launched on the market. The website is also completely renewed. At the same time, a book is published about the Zeeland babbelaar with, in addition to stories about the bakers who used to make cans with babblers in the old days, memories of people depicted on the cans of yesteryear and various recipes. Including that of the Food Lab Zeeland students