How I taste chocolate

Since I was a kid, I have always loved chocolate (and sweets in general). However, I didn’t always eat them in order to appreciate the full chorus of flavors present. My aunt loves to tell the story about the Christmas when I was 6 and I shoved 7 Christmas cookies in my mouth all at once. As I grew older, I wanted to understand the depth of chocolate, so I picked up Chloe Doutre-Roussel’s book “The Chocolate Conoisseur” and the way I approached tasting chocolate changed dramatically.

I start by Looking at and Smelling the chocolate. I think this is the first step when really tasting anything (I know for wine, beer and cheese tasting it is). I make note of the types of things I smell, whether it be fruit or flowers or earth.

Then, I Break it. I want to listen for the snap. Darker, well tempered chocolate breaks with a nice, sharp snap. In Chloe’s book, she breaks it before smelling it.. I do too, sometimes because it’s easier to hold a small piece up to my nose.

Then, it’s Taste time. I bite off a small piece and let it coat my mouth as it melts. I try to pay attention to the first flavor impressions I get. There are usually 2 to 3 tasting phases: when it first hits my mouth, during and just after it has melted, and then the aftertaste (after I swallow). I find it interesting to compare the flavors I detected in the aroma and in the taste – sometimes they are very different! Chloe has a wonder flavor wheel in her chapter on tasting to help you identify the different types of possible flavors. You can download a free PDF of her chapter on tasting at her website.

For tasting filled candies (truffles and things), Chloe recommends cutting it in half, and tasting the filling and the shell separately and then together in order to get a full understanding of the flavor. For bars with nuts/nibs in or sprinkled on top… if I can remove the topping, then I will taste those separately and then together as well. Sometimes the things are inside the bar so it is difficult to remove. However, letting the chocolate melt a little bit first before chewing it up a bit helps me to isolate the chocolate flavors. But, it is good in these cases to then chew it and taste the whole set of flavors together because that’s how the chocolatier intended it to taste. I stuck to plain chocolate bars when I was first starting (and still am, mostly) because I think I need to sophisticate my palette a bit more first before I start tasting things with nuts or other crazy spices added!

I know that my palette is going to continue growing as I keep tasting, because right now I sometimes find it difficult to pinpoint exactly what flavor I’m tasting. I practice with regular food and drink as well (I love tasting beer and wine, and I’ve found that these also have helped me to identify certain fruit and acid flavors).

Hope this helps anyone looking to taste chocolate in a new way! Best of luck!

Published in: on October 19, 2009 at 12:31 pm  Leave a Comment