Planning a Chocolate Tasting Party? Or maybe, like me, your passion for good chocolate borders on religious fervor. (TGiC? Or how about, WWCD?) This info is complete and perhaps overly-detailed; as a busy mom of two boys aged one and three, it is difficult to find a moment without background noise (particularly of the “crying baby” variety.) Does it stop me from enjoying my choccy? Hardly. I also like the notes about allowing the piece to slowly melt in your mouth. It’s so Paul McKenna, but also may be eye-opening. Just how fast do we eat our food, especially when it’s a treat? Or when chasing babies? Ok, Dig in!
- Find a location free from background noise, such as television, music, a crying baby, road traffic noise or just talkative friends etc. Being able to concentrate as intently as possible will facilitate flavor detection.
- Clear your palate. This means that your mouth should not contain residual flavors from a previous meal. Eat a wedge of apple if necessary. This is crucial in order to taste the subtleties of chocolate’s complex flavor.
- Make sure that the piece of chocolate is large enough to accommodate full evolution of the flavor profile. A piece too small may not allow you to detect every subtle nuance as the chocolate slowly melts. The important thing to remember is that flavor notes gradually evolve and unfold on the tongue rather than open up in one large package. So remember, don’t think small here. 10g should be a minimum starting point.
- Allow the chocolate to rest at room temperature before tasting. Cold temperatures will hinder your ability to detect the flavors. Some even advise that you rub the chocolate briefly between your fingers to coax the flavor. This procedure is optional.
- Look at the chocolate. The surface should be free of blemishes such as white marks (called bloom). Observe the color and manufacturer’s job at molding and tempering. Does the chocolate appear to have been crafted carefully? The bar should have a radiant sheen. Chocolate comes in a multifarious brown rainbow with various tints, such as pinks, purples, reds, and oranges. What do you see?
- Break the piece in half. It should resonate with a resounding “SNAP!” and exhibit a fine gradient along the broken edge. This is quality stuff!
- Smell the chocolate, especially at the break point. The aroma is an important component of flavor. Inhaling will prime the tongue for the incoming chocolate. It also gives you a chance to pick up the various nuances of the aroma.
- Place the chocolate on the tongue and allow it to arrive at body temperature. Let it melt. Chew it only to break it into small enough pieces that it begins to melt on its own. After all, we’re tasting and not eating! This step is crucial, for it allows the cocoa butter to distribute evenly in the mouth, which mutes any astringencies or bitterness in the chocolate.
- Observe the taste and texture. As the chocolate melts, concentrate on the flavors that are enveloping your tongue. Melting will release more volatile compounds for you to smell. Close your eyes, take notes, enjoy this moment of bliss, and bask in contentment. Texture can be the most obvious clue about the quality of a chocolate. Low quality chocolates will have a grainy almost cement-like texture.
- Now the chocolate is nearing its finish. How has the flavor evolved? Is the chocolate bitter? Heavy? Light? Was the texture smooth or grainy? Do any changes in texture and flavor occur? Take note of how the chocolate leaves the palate. Is there a strong reminder lingering in your mouth, or does it quickly vanish? Note any metallic or unpleasant flavors in the finish. This is a sign of stale or lower quality chocolate.
- Repeat the process with a different chocolate. The comparison will highlight the subtle flavor notes in each chocolate. By sure to cleanse your palate thoroughly before tasting each different chocolate.
Notes on bloom:
- The formation of whitish spots, or bloom, on chocolate is due to a separation of some of the fat in the chocolate. While it affects the aesthetics of the chocolate somewhat, it isn’t harmful to eat or use chocolate that has bloomed. Bloom is related to heat and humidity, so store chocolate in a cool, dry place free of odors.
The above is adapted from WikiHow.com’s article, “How to Taste Dark Chocolate.”
Visit my page Chocolate Resources and Info! for a list of dark chocolate tasting recommendations. For more info and recipes on appreciating dark chocolate, please click on the Chocolate or Food & Recipes category of this blog.