The Right Way to Taste Chocolate

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Tasting chocolate is much like tasting fine wine: there are subtleties of flavors and tones that you can train yourself to appreciate. Also like wine, professional chocolate tasters have developed a procedure for judging the qualities of a piece of chocolate. So, find the best dark chocolate you can and enjoy as you reap the health benefits of good chocolate.

How to Taste Test Chocolate

  1. Make sure the chocolate is room temperature. This allows the chocolate to start melting the moment it enters your mouth. Cold chocolate doesn't release its flavors and aromas as quickly, altering the tasting experience.
  2. Be still. You can't appreciate good chocolate if the phone is ringing or you're checking your e-mail. Chocolate comes from all around the world to wind up in your home, so turn off the TV and give the chocolate some respect. It will reward you for it.
  3. Cleanse your palate. You don't want other flavors interfering with your chocolate-tasting experience. Make sure there are no flavors lingering in your mouth before you begin tasting the chocolate. Ginger, a piece of apple, a bit of bread, and a bite of a pickle are all said to erase flavors in your mouth.
  4. Look at the chocolate. Chocolate experts use the appearance of the chocolate as one of many criteria to judge its quality. Good chocolate should have a shiny, even glossy, surface. If chocolate is too old, it will develop a hazy finish, a process known as blooming. The color of the chocolate depends on the origin of the beans and the roasting process, and it should be uniform for the entire bar. Also, examine the detail and care that has been put into creating the chocolate bar. Are the edges clean? Is the molding clear? Has extra effort been put into making an even, uniform bar?
  1. Break off a piece. Break your piece of chocolate in half and listen to the sound. High-quality chocolate produces a sharp, crisp sound and a clean edge. This is called the chocolate's snap. The higher the cocoa quantity and the better the tempering, the louder the snap of the chocolate. Professional chocolate tasters can tell a great deal about the quality of chocolate just by this sound.
  2. Rub it. Take your finger and rub just a bit of the chocolate. The chocolate should feel smooth and even. The warmth of your body will cause the chocolate to melt and release odors. These odors will enhance the intensity of your tasting.
  3. Smell the chocolate. Much like wine experts, chocolate experts can find an incredible array of scents and aromas. Some chocolate flavors include burnt bread, nutty, spicy and fruity, to name a few. When you begin tasting chocolate, these aromas probably won't be clear to you and that's okay. Spend more time just smelling the chocolate. Warm it up more with your finger, close your eyes and let your scent-imagination run wild. Eventually, you will be able to recognize different chocolates with different odors, and you will start to know which parts of the world produce chocolate with which aromas.
  1. Feel the chocolate in your mouth. Good chocolate should literally melt in your mouth. Chocolate melts at about 97 degrees. As it's melting the chocolate should feel rich and luscious in your mouth. You should not need to chew good chocolate at all: simply let the flavors release on their own. Examine the texture of the chocolate. It can vary from smooth to grainy. Good chocolate has a rich, velvety texture. Poor quality chocolate feels waxy or greasy.
  2. Taste it. Finally, you should taste the chocolate. You can chew if you want, but only a couple of times. As with smelling the chocolate, pay attention to the flavors that pop into your head. These could be the same as what you smelled or something completely different. Spend time being aware of how the flavors change over time as the chocolate continues to melt and coat more of your mouth.
  3. Pay attention to the finish. As the last of the chocolate leaves your mouth, the lingering flavor is known as the finish. Good chocolate should have a complex, interesting finish that is not bitter or unpleasant. The finish is an important part of the tasting, as many of the early flavors may be masked by other ingredients in the chocolate.

    Tasting Tips

    1. Go from low to high. If you're tasting many different kinds of chocolate during one sitting, always taste from lowest percentage of cocoa to highest.
    2. Store chocolate properly. Store your chocolate in a dry, dark, cool place to avoid blooming and other signs of aging.
    3. Balance. Remember to balance the calories in chocolate by eating less of something else.
    4. Time your tasting. If you are having trouble sleeping at night, do not eat chocolate close to bedtime.
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