Setting the Mood
Believe it or not, chocolate tasting is best done first thing in the morning when your taste-buds have not yet been compromised. Just a nice gargle with some warm water. Do not brush your teeth or have anything to eat or drink. If you conduct your tasting later in the day, make sure you do not have any strong flavoured foods or beverages during the day. Flat water and plain bread will cleanse your palate before you start as well as in between chocolate bars. Your room should be quiet, the temperature cool and the lighting subdued. Have all of your chocolate bars in front of you, but only open each one as it is needed so your nose does not get confused.
Open your first chocolate bar. The bar should have an even, glossy and uniform surface. There should be a smooth shine, with no pitting or bloom.
Grasp your chocolate bar and break a piece off. This sound is called snap. Snap indicates both a high cocoa content and that the chocolate has been tempered correctly. A milk chocolate bar will only offer a slight snap due to the milk and low cocoa content and white chocolate, if of high quality, will have a very small snap.
Touch and Smell
It is said we eat with our eyes first. The eyes are where taste begins and then aroma follows. Flavour of something is influenced by 75% smell and only 25% taste. The aroma of the chocolate depends where the cocoa beans were grown, the type of soil they were grown in and what was grown near it like coffee, fruit or nuts. There are hundreds of different aromas called notes. You may also find notes when tasting such things as wine or olive oil. These are not ingredients, although some may be added to the chocolate bar that you may smell and then taste. Now rub your fingers across the bar. It should feel dry. Now bring the chocolate bar to your nose and smell.
There are over 500 flavour components in chocolate, note the ones that come to you on first observation. Some of the notes have an aroma but not taste, some taste but no aroma. Some people notice some and others do not. The more you taste and cleaner your palate, the easier it becomes to find the notes. Put a square of chocolate on your tongue. Let it slowly melt and dissolve. Do not chew it. Notice the notes are in layers like perfume and wine. The first (top) note, mid-palate and finish. The finish can be short, long or anywhere in between. Generally, the higher the quality of the chocolate bar and the higher the cocoa content, the longer and more prominent the finish.
What does the chocolate feel like when you put it in your mouth? After you swallowed it? It should start to dissolve in your mouth immediately because chocolate melts just below body temperature. The textures of the chocolate can be smooth or gritty (GOOD) or creamy or waxy feel (BAD – oil added). The more you try different chocolate bars and the larger the variety in your collection, the more evolved your palate will become. Don’t expect it all to come at once. It will take time. All things worth learning take time! For more information on chocolate and more on what type of notes to look for (coming soon), visit http://www.AnnmarieKostyk.com