How to Experience Chocolate
Everybody does it in a different way. Some people like to have candles on, some beautiful music in the background, have their best friend, and other people, well, they do it like just out in the open!
It’s all about scene setting and mood setting. So before you start your chocolate tasting, it’s really best that you have not eaten or drunk anything serious in an hour before, especially if we’re talking about, sometimes the interesting things in life, like alcohol, or coffee, or even cigarettes.
Something you should also notice, that if you’re ill or you’re pregnant, then you’re going to have a really different sensory perception during your chocolate tasting as you would in normal times. When you do a chocolate tasting, try not to do more than three cacaos at a time. It’s because chocolate is incredibly intense, and actually, our palates can’t handle so much at one time.
So, keep a minimum to three, and between each tasting you’re going to leave a good three to four minutes. The way to prepare your palate is to have room temperature, very clear sparkling water, and some salty crackers. These are going to be the things that are going to help cleanse your palate and make you ready to enjoy your tasting.
Now, if you’re a professional chocolatier, the way you’re used to tasting chocolate is going to be in a liquified state. Typically, we have it between 40 and 50 degrees centigrade, we put it on the back of a spoon, and we smear it on our tongues. That’s actually how we properly taste the true nuances and aromas of cacao.
But, we don’t always have liquified chocolate to be able to taste all the time. So, if we’re in the normal world, you’re probably going to have one of these – a chocolate bar. So, let’s do our tasting; a sample of how to emulate the best chocolate connoisseurship with a bar.
So in the end, it really does all come down to looks. I hate to be shallow, but that’s actually where our chocolate tasting starts – how it looks, what the appearance is. So there are five senses we’re going to go through. Let’s start with the eyes.
Appearance IS Important!
When you get your chocolate bar, you gracefully open it. And of course, your phone and everything is turned off, right? You take your chocolate bar, you open him up, whatever type he is. And then, what you want to do is just start by looking at your chocolate bar.
You want to see what the edges look like. You want to see that it’s smooth. You want to see that it has a semi-gloss. You want to see are there any air bubbles? Are there any marks on your chocolate? This will indicate a lot about the craftsmanship.
So for example, where we are, because we don’t use any heat over 50 degrees centigrade, our chocolate bar’s generally a little dull or less shiny than others. Others, for example, will have certain methodologies or additives to make their bars more shiny.
Also, this has got a lot to do with conch. We’ll go to that in a second, But look at your bar. There’s always going to be a reason why your chocolatier has made his or her bar look like it is, because it’s probably a clue to some of the secrets behind their processing.
Hear the SNAP!
So, start by having a look. I personally, am very proud that we always have little bumps and scratches in our bars because they’re hand-made, and every one becomes original. So, we’re proud of her. And so, what you want to do is break your chocolate. You want to have a nice, clean, fine snap. Click.
The sign of a good, dark chocolate, is actually a clean, hard snap. Obviously, if it’s been in the sun a little bit too long, it’s going to be melty. Or, if it’s filled up with milk and sugar, and other additives, it’s not going to snap as nice.
You will then look at the fine line as it breaks across your chocolate and make sure the molecules are small and tight. What you want to do is take your chocolate, and take a small piece, and put on your hand, between your two knuckles. The reason is, is remember before, I said the best chocolatiers will taste their chocolate between 40 and 50 degrees in a liquified state on their tongue?
That’s because that’s where the flavour and the aroma becomes the best. So, the way you can emulate that the best is by putting it on your hand. Now so many times I’ve been at events and done chocolate tastings. And you can always see when somebody’s done one of my tastings, because they’re walking around with stripes on their hand. Seriously!
Hands Kissed by BLYSS
We’ve had events where there are guys walking along with five or six brown stripes on their hands. It looks kind of funny but I know they’ve had a BLYSS kiss then. So, what you want to do is you want to stick it here. By the time you’ve got to this process you’re already going to start to smell a world of aroma. You might be smelling caramel. You might be smelling red fruits. You could be experiencing all sorts of things.
Let’s start by rubbing. What you want to do is make a nice, fine mess on your hands. Rub your cacao and then flip him over. And this is the point at which you start to absorb the beautiful aroma. So, think like you do after you’ve done your whisky or wine tastings. What is the nosing?
There are different types of cacao beans like the Arriba Nacional, or a Criollo, a Trinitario. These are certain types of beans that have their own nuances, just like grapes have their own nuances in wine. You can know that from cacao. And this is the point where you start to guess, start to think, what is this I’m actually eating?
We shouldn’t be talking about dark chocolate and milk chocolate. They’re just banal, embarrassing simple examples of food. What we want to be talking about – what sort of bean is it? What are the nuances? What was growing in the forest?
Let the Aroma Carry You Away
I guarantee you, you will be able to smell it. Out of the different plantations we work with, we can tell when the oranges are in bloom. We can tell when the bananas are in bloom. We can tell different types of wind effects.
Take your piece. Make it nice and messy. Have a bit of fun. I think it’s the one time my mother says I’m allowed to play with my food – and smell. Out of my chocolate, I get red berries as my first notes. I don’t get caramel. And I absolutely don’t get an ash note. If you know a little bit about chocolate and you know a little bit about us, you’ll know why we don’t get those notes.
Red berries. It’s beautiful. So, we’ve used our nose. We’ve started to take a moment. And you realise, we didn’t just open this and pop it in the mouth. There are so many times I’m at events, and I give people a chocolate and they just- they throw it in their mouth. It’s like, what’s with our culture where we don’t absorb, or truly engage our food so much anymore? So, let’s remember, Smell it.
Taste the Amazingness
And then, you’re going to pop it on your tongue. When you pop it on your tongue you’re going to let it sit there for a while. Let it melt a little bit. And I want you to lift the chocolate to the top of your palate. And here, is where you start taking some out-breaths. I want you to chew slowly, and suck.
You can be both a combination of a sucker and a chewer.
There’s good sides to both. You want to put it in and you want to start to feel the nuances come. This is where you’re going to start to really understand what the full effect of the processing, the plantation, and the vintages of your cacao.
By the end of about 15 to 20 out-breaths, you will have a full mouth full of flavour. And this is the pure essence of chocolate. And this is the stuff that we work very, very hard to create. What you want to have noticed is three to four nuances come through.
For example, in the Arriba Nacional – it will be red fruits, and then it will go through to a long, nutty finish. And that brings us to the finish and the texture. You want it to be velvety smooth. You want to have a lovely texture, a round mouth feel – no oily film on the tongue or anything like that, and certainly not a fuzzy tongue. Fuzzy tongues are from sugar. Oily films are from too much milk.
Again, those of us who love chocolate in it’s pure, connoisseurship will really love dark chocolate. And here, you can actually taste the best. At the finish, it’ll start at about 15 breaths. And you’re going to hopefully get another nuance. With us, you get nuts at the end with the Arriba Nacional. Everybody’s got their own version. But look for a long finish, like you do with coffee, and whiskey, and vodka.
The longer it is, the better it is. The shorter the finish, you maybe don’t want to keep eating that chocolate anymore. So, these are the tips. These are the tricks. This is how a cacao expert can truly become a connoisseur in tasting their chocolate. It’s not just making sure that we have the phones off, and the candles lit, or maybe our best friend near us; but really understanding, hey, we’re humans and we’ve got five senses. And we can absolutely use them all to truly enjoy our little one moment of luxury we can afford ourselves in our lives.
This is my little training for you to be a connoisseur about how to really taste chocolate. I want you to think of all of your senses. Use the opportunity. Look at the cacao. Experience it on your body. And you know what? I think it’s a little secret. The best way to truly taste chocolate after all of this, it to have a kiss with somebody who just had a really yummy chocolate. That also works, too.