Take Five Friday: Chocolate Tasting Fest!

The Beau sent me this link and instantly I said, “I NEED TO HAVE A CHOCOLATE TASTING PARTY.”

But, seeing how I am a bit dorky and socially panicky, I got too nervous and doubted anyone else would be into it. So I set it all out and had myself a little midday choco-fest. (The other person I was going to invite, Tortilla, as it turns out, cannot eat chocolate. LAME.)

Like tasting wine, you’ll have to apply a little more thought and awareness. You must learn to recognize things like snap, aroma, texture, and finish.

So I would remember my favorites, I made a little cheat sheet:

I also did a bit of reading to familiarize myself with terms and things to think about while eating…

A lot of the additional info below is borrowed from the article I linked to above.

Chocolate is an incredibly complex product, but tasting can be broken down into a few, easy to swallow (HA!) components. Brad Kintzer, chief chocolate maker at TCHO, says that one of the most important things is taking your time. He brings a rather Jedi Master approach: “Pretend like you’ve never tasted chocolate before,” he says. “Monitor the experience from the time you break open the wrapper.”

In fact, you should monitor the experience even earlier. Start in the store: Buy different brands, different percentages, different origins. Buy organic and fair-trade chocolates. Taste widely and agnostically until you find brands and types that you like. There’s been a lot of emphasis placed on percentage, but Kintzer points out that one 80 percent bar can vary wildly in flavor and texture from another. Michael Recchiuti of Recchiuti Confections says that the exact same percentage can differ in every other aspect: sugar content, flavor, acidity, texture. Tasting is the only way you’ll discover the differences.

You’ve bought the bars; you’re ready to taste. Be prepared to write things down: “Don’t be afraid to geek out about it,” says Kintzer. “Taste is so subjective and personal,” says Recchiuti. “Tasting notes are always different.” You’ll want water as a palate cleanser and perhaps some crackers. Your chocolate should be at room temperature. Don’t taste right after you’ve brushed your teeth or drunk a few glasses of wine or coffee; your palate should be fresh.

Aroma: Some people rub their fingers over chocolate to warm it up and release the oils that deliver aroma. Remember that as you taste, the aroma will develop. Some tasters will even melt chocolate and eat it with a spoon to get more of the aroma earlier.

Texture: Break a chunk off. A clean snap indicates that the chocolate’s been well-tempered. Put it in your mouth. Close your eyes and think about what you’re experiencing. Chew a few times to break it up, and let it melt in your mouth. The rate at which it melts affects how quickly the flavors develop. Smack your tongue on the roof of your mouth to get a sense of the texture. Is it creamy, fatty, gritty? How well does it spread out across your palate?

Flavor: Pop the piece in your mouth, but don’t chew! Let it melt on your tongue for 20 seconds. Some of the flavors you’ll encounter include vanilla, fruit, and nuts. Other words that might come to mind: fudgy, smoky, malty, earthy, and tart. Be sure to savor the balance of nuttiness, acidity, sweetness, and bitterness.

In the end, you’ll know what you like. And you’ll get a better understanding of the complexity of premium bars.

Appearance: Examine the color, but don’t let it be your sole guide; darkness varies by the type of beans used and how they’re processed.

Chocolate should be shiny, but don’t be put off it there is a slight grayish cast. It’s called “bloom” and means that the chocolate has experienced temperature fluctuations. Any effect it has on the taste and texture is minor.

Is it smooth, velvety, creamy, soft? Or is it a little gritty? All these textures can be wonderful in chocolate because of the way they interact with the flavors. Some people think that smooth chocolates emphasize the fruity, flowery flavors, while gritty chocolates bring out the earthy and nutty tastes.

Out of all the ones I tried, hands down, my favorite was the Spicy Maya. Very cinnamon-heavy, in a good way. But you could also taste the chile, but it gave you a slow, spicy burn instead of just being hot like the Chipotle. And of course, the pretty design got me interested, too:

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