16 Unexpected Tips to Taste Chocolate Like a Pro
With the explosion of the craft chocolate mania, there is no shortage online of articles explaining how to taste chocolate involving all the 5 senses…
- Listen to the snap
- Smell the aromas
- Look at the color and stylish details
- Touch the texture
- … & finally the biggest pleasure with Taste!
But there are many other suggestions that only professionals know about and are rarely disclosed in the mainstream media.
Here’s 16 tips that will make you taste chocolate like a real pro:
1. Choose the best time of the day for you.
First thing in the morning with a clear mind, or in the evening to sooth yourself from a long day, pick the time of the day when you know you will be undisturbed, free from things to get done and in no rush. Select the time of the day when your abilities to focus are at their peak.
2. Stay away from meals.
You don’t want leftover flavours from your breakfast, lunch or dinner to be still sitting in your mouth and invalidate your tasting experience. Also, be aware of the toothpaste you brush your teeth with after the meal. If the minty flavour is still strong in your mouth, wait until it is totally gone before tasting.
3. Choose the quietest room of the house.
Loud noises and dynamic scenario are highly distracting when you try to focus on your senses. Therefore, pick a room in your house that is quiet, far from main streets and loud neighbour’s, then shut the door and tell everybody in the house that you are taking 20 minutes all for yourself.
4. Eliminate odours from your body.
Check yourself: are you wearing fresh nail polish? Do you still have perfume on? Have you touched any smelly object like coins or food, or washed your hands with scented soap? It’s best to eliminate all these odours before tasting.
Setting the table:
5. Choose in advance the chocolate you are going to taste and in what order.
You want to be 100% focused on your senses during the tasting, therefore make these decisions ahead of time to avoid wasting concentration.
6. Open the chocolate to let it breathe.
Just like wine, also fine chocolate needs to take some air, away from its original packaging, to reveal its most authentic flavours.
7. Don’t forget the water.
Have a tall glass of water ready for a sip in between chocolate bars. To cleanse your palate even deeper, prepare unsalted crackers or polenta, just like judges do during the tasting for international competitions.
8. Make sure you have a tasting tool next to you to help you identify the flavours in your chocolate.
You can use a flavour wheel, the Taste with Colour Map or any other tool with a categorisation of all flavours. While tasting, you will identify the largest category (fruity, nutty, spicy, etc.) and then choose the specific nuances from the subgroups.
9. Have pen and paper on hand.
You want to write down all about your experience with a specific chocolate bar. You can go as far as to dedicate an entire notebook just to chocolate tastings, like an archive that you can always refer to.
10. Use all the tools that can help you stay focused.
If outside noises distract you too much, use ear plugs. If you don’t have them, you can listen to soothing music on your headphones. If closing your eyes isn’t enough to keep off the light, have no shame in using a sleep mask.
During the tasting:
11. Remind yourself that there is no right answer.
Even the tasting notes you read on the packaging of your favourite craft chocolate bar aren’t an objective truth. Chocolate changes in flavour over time, just like aged wine. Also, everybody tastes different things in chocolate depending on their culinary background, preferences, and moods. No matter if you are an enthusiastic beginner or an experienced sommelier, remember that your opinion is as valid as anybody else’s.
12. Let the chocolate melt before chewing.
If you let the fat in the chocolate (i.e. the cocoa butter) melt while resisting the temptation to bite, you will be rewarded with an array of flavours that will slowly open up for you to enjoy. You will know when to bite when the chocolate will feel soft in your mouth, to reveal even more enchanting nuances.
13. Don’t be afraid to take a second bite.
It’s true that the palate tends, for survival instincts, to round off and flatten any off flavours you might experience. But while you should always trust your first impression, a second bite won’t hurt, and will only reveal new nuances from the first bite, or at least confirm your first impressions. Try to believe it.
14. Write down a lot of notes.
You can write down the organoleptic properties of what you are tasting, such as flavour notes, texture and aromas, but also don’t forget about the emotional side of chocolate. Does any memory from the past come up? What emotions are you feeling? Did the chocolate remind you of a specific person?
After the tasting:
15. Put the leftover chocolate back in its original packaging.
This way not only the chocolate will be best preserved, but then you will be able to go back to it and taste it another time knowing exactly what it is.
16. Don’t immediately rush back to your day.
Take a moment to recap in your mind what you just tasted, what you learnt about your preference, what chocolate you liked the most, which bar you’d buy for a loved one, and conclude your tasting with a big appreciation for all the people that made all that chocolate possible, from cocoa farmers to chocolate makers.
Now you are ready to taste chocolate like a pro!
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