–In conjunction with our NEW chocolate making workshops, we’re publishing this guide to help define the difference of handcrafted chocolate. What better way, we think, than through the stomach, right?
As a child, I’d scarf down a Reese’s Cup before you could say stop. Since then, I’ve learned from the chocolate experts. If you’re tasting a carefully crafted piece of chocolate, you’re missing important flavor notes if you don’t slow down and head these tips.
Despite most people’s perception of it, chocolate has more than 400 complex flavor compounds. For context, that’s more than a fine wine. And the process begins with the cacao variety, specific soil conditions, and the climate. But that’s just the beginning. The taste of chocolate is further affected by each step in the chocolate making process. That is, the fermentation, the way it dries, roasting times and temperatures, even the size of the cacao bean. Ultimately, this means that each bar of chocolate–even if you’ve already tried that particular variety–can taste different, especially when the bar comes from small batch bean-to-bar companies (like Chaqchao).
So, how do you best note the subtleties of fine chocolate? If you’re a lover of chocolate–and still reading this blog post–get a glass of water (or piece of bread*) and follow the numbered points below.
1. Prepare. You should be in a room where other smells won’t distract. Moreover, that water or piece of bread will help you cleanse your taste buds and help you distinguish the inherent subtleties between each brand and type of chocolate (if you’re trying more than one).
2. Smell. Take a whiff. That aroma you experience is a big part of the tasting experience.
3. Look. The chocolate should appear glossy, not chalky, due to proper tempering (the strategic lowering and raising of temperature to acquire the exact crystals).
4. Listen. Snap the chocolate. By breaking it, you can see if the chocolate, once again, has been tempered well. If not, the break will be soft and crumbly.
5. Taste. Finally, (I know what you’re thinking; I’m that omnipresent narrator), it’s time to taste the chocolate, but make sure you don’t chew it yet. Place a portion on your tongue and let it melt a little. Why? When chocolate melts other flavor notes are revealed.
Like the process of tasting wine, the more practice you have, the more refined your tasting will be. Hints of cinnamon, a smoky smell, jasmine, spice, cherries, or maybe, in fact, you taste vanilla. All of this is possible. Each chocolate bar, as you’ve discovered by now, is unique. Just like your particular idea of the chocolate you’re tasting, it’s unique.
6. Wallow. If you’ve selected a good chunk of chocolate, the taste will still be there minutes later. Take it slow; this is no Reese’s Cup, you’re (most likely) a mature, sophisticated adult. Wallow in the sweet pleasures that it brings. And most of all, enjoy it, hopefully you’re tasting some of the world’s finest chocolate.
Want to learn more? Sign up for one of our bean-to-bar chocolate making workshops! We’ll discuss–in more depth–the history of cacao, the significance of the source, and how to (most importantly) make and taste it.
For more details about our workshops, please contact us through our Facebook page. ¡Nos vemos en Arequipa!
*Note: bread not required if sampling just one type, unless that is, you really like bread as much as your chocolate.