HOW TO TASTE CHOCOLATE
LIKE A PROFESSIONAL
Story and Photography by Maya Fidziukiewicz
There is artistry behind chocolate, and it happens right here in our beloved state
Chocolate — the beloved treat, flavor and ingredient that turns anything into pure indulgence. Throughout our childhoods, we’ve been conditioned to crave the cheap bars on the convenience store shelf. We reach for those now in hopes of tasting nostalgia, which in most cases, is successful in rekindling those memories.
Aside from the nostalgic side of chocolate, there is also artistry behind it, and it happens right here in our beloved state.
The art of tasting chocolate is a similar discipline to the art of tasting wines — both involve indulging all the senses in finding the flavors, scents and textures that are crafted to arouse. When you find the right bar of chocolate that is worthy of creating an experience, here is a step-by-step guide on how to approach your classy indulgence.
When tasting chocolate, it’s best to compare a few bars at a time. Usually four to six bars is ideal, but having at least two will be enough to do the trick. Store chocolate in dark, cool areas, such as the back of your pantry or your basement — but never in the fridge or near a stove. The temperature can react with the ingredients and change the original properties of the chocolate bar that probably cost at least $8.
Overall, tasting chocolate is a much different experience than just eating it. You can become a chocolate-tasting expert and be able to describe the tastes of chocolate the way wine and coffee connoisseurs can. So the next time you come across a high-quality chocolate bar, treat yourself to an experience using these tips below. Happy tasting!
Give it a good look.
By looking at the chocolate, you notice its luster, or the way light interacts with the surface of the bar. What color is the chocolate? The darker the color, the higher the percentage of cocoa. Milk chocolate is usually lighter and white chocolate is, well, white. Old chocolate has a dusty look to it because the fats and the sugars came to the surface and the chocolate bloomed — your best bet is to save this chocolate for baking. To get the best results, place the bar on a white sheet of paper so the contrast brings out its truest color, intensity and hue.
Feel it out.
Next, close your eyes and focus on how your fingers interpret the chocolate. Is the chocolate soft or hard? Does it melt in your hand? Bend the chocolate — is there any resistance?
Then, with your eyes still closed, raise the chocolate to your ear and pay attention to the sound of the snap. Is it a clear sharp sound or is it dull? The sound chocolate makes when it breaks is an indication of its quality. A clearer snap indicates that it was properly stored and that the chocolate itself is purer.
Take a sniff.
The strongest smell comes from the edge that has just been broken off. Rub the chocolate between your fingers to warm it up. Do you smell bright flavors like citrus, raspberry or pear? Maybe it has a more roasted essence with coffee or nuts. Any florals like lavender or rose? This will give you a good preface to what your bar will taste like.
Time to taste.
The long-awaited moment is here. As you pop your chocolate into your mouth, let it melt on your tongue for a few seconds, and then break it into pieces with your teeth. The taste is where the flavors get the stage. Milk and white chocolate have more sweet tastes, while dark chocolate can have sweet, bitter and sour flavors. While you’re tasting, pay attention to the way the chocolate feels in your mouth. It can be pungent, warm, creamy or coarse, just to name a few variations.
Cleanse and continue.
After each taste of chocolate, cleanse your palate with some water or plain crackers and repeat the process with the rest of your selections. There is no right or wrong way of doing this, but save the more intense and bold flavors for last.
Track your favorites.
Take note of which chocolates you like and which ones are not your style. Make little notes of where you found them, what flavors you found and what you’d pair it with if you had a second chance with this bar. These notes might come in handy when hosting your next party featuring chocolate pairings with wine, beer or cheese.