Did you know chocolate has over 400 distinct flavour compounds, more so than a fine wine?! Here is a guide to raise awareness of your senses in tasting chocolates. Follow this guide to get the best out of your chocolate tasting adventures and optimise the enjoyment of each bite.
1. Before you start
Allow the chocolate to come to room temperature before tasting. Cold temperatures will hinder your ability to detect the flavors. Start from plain chocolate then move on to flavored varieties, lower cacao percentages to higher.
First note its colour and its sheen, is it shiny or dull? Is it a light mahogany or dark ebony? Good quality chocolate should have a radiant sheen and a dark mahogany brown colour. If it is near black, this could bbe is a sign of over-roasting (in regular chocolate). There should not be any streaks from fat or sugar bloom – often the result of poor tempering, quick changes in temperature or incorrect storage.
Also take time to observe and appreciate any stamping on the chocolate surface.
Break a piece off, does the chocolate give a crisp snap or crumble? A sign of good quality chocolate is a clean snap when it is broken. Dark chocolate has the highest cacao liquor content and will have the cleanest break.
Smell the broken piece. What aromas do you notice? Depending on the variety of cacao beans, the chocolate could smell sweet, fruity, nutty, spicy, earthy or herbaceous but it should not be burnt, smell like chemicals or have no smell at all.
What does it feel like in your hands? Is it brittle or smooth? Does it melt quickly or remain solid? Is it sticky or grainy? If it contains other ingredients such as coconut cream, this will lower the melting point.
Now place a small piece of chocolate on your tongue, let it melt slowly, and then move the chocolate all around and enjoy. Not all flavors reveal themselves at once; note the development of aromas, textures and flavours over time in the attack phase, body and aftertaste. The best flavours come often after a few seconds – is it bitter, acidic, floral, fruity, nutty, spicy, earthy or herbaceous (refer to the chart below)? Determine the mouthfeel – creamy, dry or grainy? How intense is the flavour? How long does the aftertaste linger? Stay focused throughout the process.
7. Appreciate and Wrap Up
Every stage of the chocolate making process will influence the flavor of the final outcome. Take your time to appreciate appreciate the quality of the chocolate and the skill of the chocolatier. More importantly, through this exercise, you’ll have a better understanding of the kinds of chocolate you like best!
Let this chocolate tasting experience serve as a training ground, a dojo, for immersing yourself in other areas of life – working, playing, reading and eating all get deeper and richer when we invoke all senses to be present to the richness of all experiences. We get more connected to the activity, to the people, to ourselves. And when that happens things just get more fun.
Review of 6 chocolate brands
In the name of research and product development, I went to Supernature, a health food store at basement 1 of Delfi Orchard, to purchase chocolate. They stock a good selection of fine chocolate brands, including both the regular types and raw. To level the playing field, I chose dark chocolate (about 75%) where possible but was limited by availability in some cases. I returned with chocolate bars form 6 different brands – 3 types regular, 3 types raw.
One fine afternoon after lunch, I set out on a chocolate tasting session. Below is a summary of my review.
|Brand name,//www.ombar.co.uk" target="_blank">Ombar,Green & Black's,//lovingearth.com.au" target="_blank">Loving Earth,Vivani,Taza,//www.consciouschocolate.com/" target="_blank">Conscious Chocolate|
|Product name,Blueberry + Acai (60%),Dark (70%),Dark (72%),Bitter Couverture (70%),Cacao Crunch (80%),The Dark Side (85%)|
|Appearance,Dark brown with medium shine and imprinted with 'Ombar',Deep brown with good shine and imprinted with logo,Dull mahogany brown and imprinted with logo,Light brown with imprint,Deep brown with good shine and imprinted with 'stone-ground',Deep dark brown|
|Packaging,Paper sleeve and gold foil,Paper sleeve and gold foil,Recycled box and plastic wrap, Paper sleeve and silver foil,Paper sleeve and gold foil,Recycled box and wrapped printed bar|
|Sound,Soft break,Hard snap,Soft break,Hard snap,Hard snap,Crumbly snap|
|Smell,Bitter & tart,Mellow,Mellow & floral,Sweet & milky,Sweet,Bitter & acidic|
|Taste,Sharp attack of fruity berry flavours with chocolate flavour taking the back seat,Smooth & non-acidic,Bold & floral with undertones of coconut,Well-rounded but slightly sweet,Gritty with acidic aftertaste,Straight-up intense dark and uncomplex flavour with slow melt|
|Ingredients,Raw cacao. coconut sugar. fruit powders (blackcurrant. raspberry. blueberry. acai),Cocoa mass. raw cane sugar. cocoa butter. soy lecithin. vanilla, Raw cacao beans. evaporated coconut nectar,Cocoa mass. raw cane sugar. cocoa butter,Cacao beans. cane sugar. cocoa butter. vanilla beans,Cacao butter. agave nectar. cacao powder. cinnamon. himalayan salt|
|Sugars (per 100 g),28 g,28.5 g,28 g,27 g,20 g,12.2 g|
|Certifications/Labels,Vegan • Organic • Raw,Organic • Fair Trade,Vegan • Organic • Raw,Organic,Vegan • Organic • Direct Trade,Vegan • Organic • Raw|
|Net size,35 g,100 g,80 g,200 g,70 g, 50 g|
|Other comments,-,Trinitario beans,Single origin Criollo beans from Peru,-,Stone-ground,Handmade from Ecuadorian cacao|
Overall, I noted that all the three types of raw chocolates, which used alternative sweeteners like coconut sugar and agave syrup, had a poorer snap than regular chocolate with cane sugar. Amongst the raw chocolate brands, I loved Conscious Chocolate best, then Ombar and Loving Earth. Conscious Chocolate had an unassuming, nondescript cardboard packaging, but the quality and taste was straight up goodness. I was most let down by Loving Earth; which it’s packaging design was gorgeous with a pop-up 3D feel, the taste left much to be desired with a almost fermented lingering coconut aftertaste.
Amongst the regular (roasted) type chocolates, Green and Black’s was unparalleled, smooth and intense. It is also great value for its price. However it’s ingredients include soy lecithin, perhaps the reason for the extra smoothness. Although not included in this review, Lindt is a very good regular type chocolate as well, on the same level as Green and Black’s. Taza had a very acidic, almost acrid aftertaste, and I give it a thumbs down.
I hope after this post you are now equipped to have a better chocolate experience!0