Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Unwrapping the Chocolate Genome

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

After more than 10 years of teamwork planning and two years of mapping genes, two separate research groups have announced the complete sequencing of the genomes of two of the major cacao tree varieties.

Much of the world’s chocolate comes from cocoa beans harvested from the Theobroma cacao tree. The Forastero variety—used mainly in the bulk of the world’s chocolate production, and Criollo—used for its exceptionally fine taste.

Unfortunately, almost all cacao trees are highly susceptible to disease and cacao growers are constantly fighting plant plagues and the disruption of the sources of supply.

Brazil’s cacao crop, which once dominated the world market, was been decimated by a fungal blight known as witch’s broom. The fungus probably co-evolved with the cacao tree in Amazonia. Once the domesticated trees were cultivated in fields of genetically similar plants, the fungus had a field day and spread uncontrollably.

So far, witch’s broom and its equally destructive cousin, frosty pod, have not spread to cacao trees in Africa, where 70 percent of the world’s cacao is now grown. The old world cacao fields are not disease-free, however. Other fungi, such as black pod, as well as viruses and insect plagues have also affected cocoa bean crops in Africa and now in the newer plantations in Southeast Asia.

Cocoa bean shortages resulting from these plagues cost farmers an estimated $700 million in losses each year and are of particular to concern to larger candy companies which account for more than three-quarters of all the chocolate products sold in the United States each year.

To help ensure the health of cacao trees all over the world, two years ago Mars and Hershey announced separate plans to fund the sequencing of the cacao tree genome. The group that received funds from Mars and the U.S. Department of Agriculture went after the Forastero genome while Hershey partnered with Penn State University and CIRAD, a French agency based in Paris that studies agricultural issues in developing countries, to work on the Criollo genome.

The goal isn’t to produce genetically modified candy bars. Rather, by sequencing the cacao tree genome, geneticists are providing plant breeders all over the world with a powerful new tool known as marker-assisted selection (MAS) that can be used to accelerate the breeding process for disease resistance and other valuable traits like drought tolerance and even flavor and texture.

Having the cacao genome in hand could also provide a unique opportunity to study genetic interactions between pathogens and hosts. Since scientists already have the genomes of witches broom and frosty pod allowing them to find the genetic triggers underlying the infection, that could be a very useful weapon in fighting disease.

However, even with these advancements, there is much work that remains to be done. The next step, identifying molecular markers, is a complicated and painstaking process. Sequencing is the easy part. Assembling the genome and identifying the markers is really the art form. It’s kind of like assembling a 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle—one for each of the 10 chromosomes in the cacao genome, each comprised of 40 million puzzle pieces.

In the end, a team of 60 scientists working at 20 different institutes in six different countries were able to assemble 76 percent of the Criollo genome and identify 96 percent of the genes. The Forastero genome project met with even greater success, with 92 percent of the genome assembled, including 35,000 genes.

While the two simultaneous projects might recall the infamous race between Celera Genomics and the publicly financed Human Genome Project to sequence the human genome, both cacao genome groups compliment each other for providing the opportunity to compare the two closely related Forastero and Criollo varieties.

The Forastero genome recently became available online and the Criollo sequence will be posted on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website, also home to the human genome.

Both groups intend to continue perfecting their respective sequences, while moving into the next stage of translating the roughly 420 million-unit DNA sequences into heartier cacao plants around the world.

It’s not only about helping chocolate manufacturers make better products; it should also help farmers create a more reliable crop that can be grown in an environmentally sustainable way.

That’s great news for 3.5 million substance farmers who depend on growing cacao for a living, and for chocolate-loving people who can look forward to enjoying great chocolate for years to come.

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Over 130 and Still Counting

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

Over the last 40 years I have visited 131 countries. Some of my older passports are as thick Yellow Pages directories. When my friends return home from an overseas trip, they talk about the museums, churches and castles they have visited. Being a food and chocolate guy, I reminisce about the restaurants, supermarkets and chocolate museums I have discovered.

Did you know that major museums have entire exhibitions dedicated to chocolate and other specialty museums where you feel surrounded by chocolate? At these unique repositories, you will discover how Chocolate engages your senses and reveals facets of this sumptuous, sweet treat that you’ve never thought about before. You’ll explore the plant, the products, and the culture of chocolate through the lenses of science, history, and popular culture.

The Choco-Story chocolate museum in Bruges, Belgium, is composed of three parts, telling the story of the origin and evolution of chocolate through a unique collection of almost one thousand objects. Besides the history, the museum also reveals how chocolate is made, with special attention to a variety of raw ingredients and the development of the production process. In the demonstration center, visitors uncover the secret of beautiful silky chocolate and get the opportunity to taste the chocolate products made in the museum.

Wijnzakstraat 2
Sint-Jansplein, 8000 Bruges, Belgium
050 61 22 37

The Chocolate Museum opened in June of 1999 in New Brunswick, Canada. It is a must for all Chocoholics! Devoted to the wonder of Chocolate, it displays the history of Ganong Bros. Limited, candy makers in St. Stephen since 1873. The museum is an indoor, unique, interactive experience. What better way to sweeten a child’s enthusiasm for history, chemistry and economics than with chocolate?

73 Milltown Blvd.
St. Stephen, New Brunswick E3L 1G5
“Canada’s Chocolate Town”
(506) 466-7848

At The Field Museum in Chicago you can journey through history to get the complete story behind the tasty treat that we crave in Chocolate. Start your tour in the rainforest with the unique cacao tree whose seeds started it all. Visit the ancient Maya civilization of Central America and discover what chocolate meant nearly 1,500 years ago. Then travel forward in time and northward to the Aztec civilization of 16th-century Mexico, where cacao seeds were so valuable, they were used as money. Discover chocolate’s introduction into the upper classes of European society and its transformation into a mass-produced world commodity.

1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605-2496
(312) 922-9410

The Imhoff-Stollwerck Museum is just one of the reasons I love Cologne—Germany’s chocolate capital. The museum sits on the Rhine in an impressive ship-shaped construction of glass and metal. It is very open, airy and modern inside. Here you can sip cocoa on the terrace overlooking the Rhine. The museum started as an exhibit meant to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Stollwerk Chocolate Company and was so successful that the idea of a full-scale museum quickly grew from it. The Chocolate Museum opened its doors on October 31st, 1993. This self-financed museum now welcomes more than 5 million visitors a year with an average of 2,000 visitors a day.

The museum is an interactive experience. The tour starts with pictures of cacao plants and takes the visitor through the entire production process from bean to bar. Large color photos are accompanied by explanations in German and English about cultivation and harvest, different kinds of cocoa, and fermentation. Visitors next walk through a small greenhouse where they actually feel the tropical conditions and see growing cocoa plants followed by industrialization and the invention of the machines which allowed chocolate to become the silky texture we are accustomed to today.

Rheinauhafen 1a
D-50678, Cologne
+49-221/93 18 88-0

The Museu de la Xocolata is a strange Barcelona museum—strangely delicious! Xocolata means chocolate. And to me, good chocolate is a key ingredient of a great vacation. If you like chocolate, the Museu de la Xocolate in the La Ribera district of Barcelona will add to your vacation enjoyment.

The museum shows how the cocoa bean is transformed into chocolate in different historical eras. You’ll also learn about chocolate’s place in history and how it has been represented in media and advertising. Chocolate is used in ways that are hard to imagine and the place is littered with amazing chocolate sculptures.

Carrer del Comerç, 36
08003 Barcelona, España
Tel. 932 687 878

In 1972, the Candy Americana Museum in Lititz, Pennsylvania was created by Penny Buzzard, wife the company’s former president John Buzzard. Penny went to antique shows and flea markets looking for old chocolate memorabilia. She gathered more than 1000 varieties of molds, tins, and boxes and displayed them in the museum. Business associates who learned of her efforts began to contribute pieces such as early candy machinery, marble slabs, starch trays, copper kettles, and so on. The prized collection of the museum has more than 150 hand-painted European and Oriental antique porcelain chocolate pots, some bearing the names Haviland, Limoges, and Dresden. The Candy Americana Museum started out as a one-room museum and has expanded slowly. In 1977, the modern candy kitchen was opened. The kitchen features handmade chocolates being created right before your eyes including homemade marshmallow, almond bark, peanut butter meltaways, heavenly hash, mint drizzle, and almond butter crunch.

48 N. Broad St.
Lititz, PA 17543
(717) 626-3249

Chocolate World, located in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is the beginning of The Hershey Story which takes visitors on an inspirational journey through the life of Milton S. Hershey, the man, his chocolate company, the town that bears his name, and his generous legacy.

The Hershey Story explores the rags to riches accomplishments of an American entrepreneur who used his personal wealth to enrich the lives of others. Hear never-before-shared stories of his innovation and determination. Learn how Mr. Hershey revolutionized the process of making milk chocolate. Discover how the Hershey Industrial School’s orphan boys became heirs to his fortune.

From the interactive Museum Experience and its creative Apprentice Program to the Chocolate Lab to Café Zooka and the Museum Shop, the sweet results of Mr. Hershey’s entrepreneurship, ingenuity and philanthropy are guaranteed to inspire all who enter The Hershey Story.

63 West Chocolate Avenue.
Hershey, PA 17033
(717) 534-3439

Bruges, Belgium is home to one of Europe’s chocolate museums—Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate. The museum occupies a three story building on the Rue de la Tete d’Or, and contains numerous exhibits (chocolate moulds, fine porcelain ‘tea’ sets, posters, photos and preserved cocoa pods) as well as demonstrations of the art of the chocolatier. There are even chocolate sculptures and chocolate clothing. Oh, and free samples!

The ground floor houses various glass cases containing old style moulds (some of which are original Cote d’Or moulds), an explanation of the processing of the cocoa beans, and at the rear, a kitchen where there are demonstrations on how pralines are formed in moulds. The upper floors delve more into the history of cocoa, regions where it is produced, and the effects of the cocoa trade both here in Europe and in Africa.

Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate
Rue de la Tête d’Or, 9/11
1000 Brussels (Belgium)
Tel.: +32 (0)2 514 20 48 4

Other Great Chocolate Museums

Musée les Secrets du Chocolat
Geispolsheim, France

Complete with theatre, tea room, and gift shop that sells chocolate pasta, chocolate vinegar, chocolate beer and decorative antique chocolate molds, this museum is every bit as elegant as the country it represents.

Pannys Amazing World of Chocolate
Phillip Island Chocolate Factory
Newhaven, Phillip Island, Victoria, Canada

This facility houses such tongue-in-cheek exhibits as statue of David replicas, a Dame Edna mural and an entire chocolate town. Aside from the eye candy, visitors are treated to real candy with a chocolate sample upon arrival.

Choco-Story Chocolate Museum
Prague, Czech Republic

Chocolate may be a feast for the palate, but this museum is truly a feast for the eyes. With collections of stunning antique chocolate wrappers and demonstrations of the chocolate making process, it’s hard to know what to look at first.

Chocolate Museum
Jeju-do Island, South Korea

While the chocolate workshop, “Bean to Bar” showroom, and art gallery are all impressive, perhaps this museum’s biggest draw is their working San Francisco-style trolley car.

Nestlé Chocolate Museum
Mexico City, Mexico

Known more for its modern design and the speed with which it was built (by most estimates 75 days from start to finish), this futuristic building is an exhibit in itself.

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The Coveted Ivy League Halls of Yale University — It’s Back to School

Monday, August 2nd, 2010
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

It was back to school last week for both Chef Wayne Chidester and me as we had the honor of teaching several days of bakery and confection workshops using American-grown, protein-packed peanuts at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. The peanut immersion workshops were sponsored by the National Peanut Board who so ably represent America’s peanut farmers.

New Haven is a campus town with quaint commercial districts, serene residential streets, the famous New Haven Green, Yale University and other landmarks of American history. It’s also the place that has given the world five United States presidents, the hamburger, the lollipop, the corkscrew, and some of the world’s best pizza.

Yale University has been a part of the New Haven community for three centuries. With just over 11,000 hard-working students, you can imagine the appetites that have to be satisfied in the 12 colleges, Commons (Yale’s primary Dining Hall) and several other foodservice facilities. Commons alone serves nearly 16,000 meals per week. Yale has made an effort to serve “responsible foods”— foods that are healthful, locally-grown in a sustainable fashion, whole wheat products and now a protein-rich bakery—pastry and bread—which offers menu options made from what George Washington Carver thought was nature’s perfect food, the peanut.

In some cases, peanut flour can be used as a one-for-one replacement for all-purpose flour resulting in a 100% gluten-free pastry. In the gluten-free category we chose to showcase Milk Chocolate Ganache-Peanut Butter Muffins, Milk Chocolate-Peanut Butter Trifle, Peanut Butter Pound Cake, Peanut Butter Angel Food Cake, and even a Nutty Dessert Topping as a replacement for high calorie chocolate sundae topping.

Pure Power BarWe also showcased Choclatique Pure Power—our delicious, gluten-free, protein packed peanut bar full of USA-grown peanuts and all natural ingredients. With over nine grams of protein, this is the perfect snack for an energy boost. It is available in two flavors—Pure Power Original and Pure Power Fruit with blueberries and tart cherries.

Some of the whole wheat and peanut flour desserts we presented included a Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Sapor (a Salvadorian peanut shortbread), fried Chocolate Peanut Butter Wontons and a variety of great peanutty desserts and breakfast cakes fashioned from puff pastry which included Chocolate Peanut Butter Puffs (dumplings), Cigars, Bear Claws and Danish, all filled with peanut butter-chocolate ganache. There was even a freshly-baked and puffed Mediterranean Peanut Pocket Pita.

The highlight of the workshop was our own version of Top Chef where our “students” had the opportunity to take the basic ingredients that we supplied and turn them into their own super-tasty inventions. While we had the chance to teach a group of talented bakers and pastry chefs all about baking with peanuts, they had the occasion to educate us on all that is Yale. It couldn’t have been a better marriage of food and education.

About National Peanut Board

The National Peanut Board (NPB) is a farmer-funded national research, promotion and education program. Each of the 10 major peanut-producing states has a grower Board member and an alternate representative. One at-large Board member also represents all minor peanut-producing states. Board members are nominated by state producer organizations and appointed by the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Through NPB, growers from across the United States come together to contribute to the research and promotion of USA-grown peanuts.

About Yale University

Yale University comprises three major academic components: Yale College (the undergraduate program), the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the professional schools. In addition, Yale encompasses a wide array of centers and programs, libraries, museums, and administrative support offices. Approximately 11,250 students attend Yale.

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The Eyes of Thailand

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

Elephant ChocolateLast April I wrote about the introduction of Choclatique Elephant—Seriously Strong Chocolate (76%). Since we first introduced it, Elephant Chocolate has become one of our most popular choices for the serious dark chocolate lover.

Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) Elephant Hospital in Chiang Mai, ThailandOne of our biggest “fans” is Windy Borman who has produced an amazing film, The Eyes of Thailand. It is a full-length color documentary about Soraida Salwala, the founder of the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) Elephant Hospital in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It chronicles her efforts to save sick and abused Asian elephants of the region. It is tragic to realize that Asian elephants are in serious danger of going extinct within our lifetime!

Now that elephant logging is now illegal in Thailand, many owners look to the tourism industry for income to feed their families and their animals. There are now over 2,000 elephants working in tourist trade, as street beggars, or performing in elephant circus shows. While some tourists think it is fun and exciting to see an elephant up close, feed her bananas, or walk through the jungle on her back, the reality of their lives is much different.

Many of these elephants are overworked and suffer injuries from performances or car accidents, water poisoning from dirty city water and starvation. Others are causalities of landmines where their limbs are blow off. At Choclatique we have held several successful fund raisers to help Windy get her film completed, out for distribution and help save the elephants. The latest one was in mid-December.

Soraida Salwala with an Elephant patientBut unfortunately, December has been a month of ups and downs for the elephants of Chiang Mai—two pachyderm patients (Tahnee and Baby Namfon) died. At the same time Baby Mosha, a 3-year old Asian Elephant landmine survivor was fitted for a new prosthetic limb by the Prostheses Foundation at FAE’s Elephant Hospital. This is her fourth prosthesis since arriving at FAE in 2006. As you can imagine the costs of feeding over 20 elephants, providing medication and, of course changing out prosthetic limbs as often as buying baby a new pair of shoes is expensive.

You can help with a donation to The Eyes of Thailand through their fiscal sponsor, The San Francisco Film Society. You can make a donation in your name, or in honor of someone else, online by clicking here. The link will take you to the secure online donation page for The San Francisco Film Society.

Meet Baby Mosha

Baby MoshaMosha (which means Star in the Karin language) is a 3-year old Asian Elephant at the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) Elephant Hospital.

When she was 7-months old, Mosha stepped on a landmine along the Thai-Burma border. Her owner donated her to FAE, where Soraida Salwala and her staff could rehabilitate and care for her.

This week the Prostheses Foundation visited Mosha and made a mold of her leg to create her fourth prosthesis. As a permanent resident of FAE, Mosha will continue to receive prosthetic limbs throughout her lifetime, which can be as long as 60-80 years.

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How to Become an Official Choclatique Critical Gourmet Chocolate Taster

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

(A Chocoholic’s 10-Step Program)

The actual flavor compounds found in dark chocolate are more complex and extreme than those of red wine. Tasting and detecting all these flavor notes can be an extremely fun and educational endeavor. Let the following serve as a road map, so that you can extract the fullest flavor potential from dark chocolate.

    1. Find a location free from background aromas and noise, such as television, music, a crying baby, road traffic, talkative friends, etc. Being able to concentrate as intently as possible will help facilitate flavor detection.
    2. Clear your palate. This means that your mouth should not contain residual flavors from a previous meal. Eat a wedge of apple, an unsalted cracker or piece of bread if necessary. This is crucial in order to taste the subtleties of a good dark chocolate’s complex flavor.
    3. Make sure that the piece of chocolate is large enough to allow for the blossoming of flavor. A piece too small may not allow you to detect every subtle nuance as the chocolate slowly melts in your mouth. With chocolate, the flavors gradually evolve and come alive on your tongue and mouth rather than opening up in one large burst. So remember, don’t think small here. A 1-ounce piece should be a minimum starting point.
    4. Allow the dark chocolate to rest at room temperature before tasting. Cold temperatures will hinder your ability to detect the flavors. At Choclatique, we always rub the dark chocolate briefly between our fingers to coax out the flavor. This is what a professional taster would do.
    5. Inspect the chocolate. The surface should be free of blemishes and chocolate bloom. Observe the color and the chocolatier’s skill at tempering and molding the chocolate. The bar should have a mirror-like shine. Chocolate comes in a variety of browns with various tints, such as rose, purples, reds, and oranges.
    6. Break the piece in half. It should resonate with a resounding “SNAP!” and exhibit a fine gradient along the broken edge. This is would be the hallmark of really good chocolate.
    7. Smell the chocolate, especially at the break point. Aroma is an important component of flavor. Inhaling will prime your taste buds for the incoming chocolate. It also gives you a chance to pick up the various nuances of the aroma.
    8. Place the chocolate on your tongue. Allow it melt slowly. Chew it only to break it into small enough pieces that it begins to melt on its own. This slow melt allows the cocoa butter to distribute evenly in the mouth, which mutes any astringencies or bitterness in the chocolate.
    9. Be conscience of the texture (well-conched chocolate) and the taste (well-balanced chocolate blend). Texture can be the most obvious clue about the quality of a chocolate. Low quality chocolates will have a grainy, almost dirty ash tray-like texture. As the chocolate melts in your mouth, concentrate on the flavors you are experiencing. Melting will release more volatile compounds for you to smell and taste. Close your eyes, take notes, enjoy this moment of bliss of the flavor thrills, and bask in contentment.
    10. Now the chocolate is nearing its finish. How has the flavor evolved? Is the chocolate bitter? Heavy? Light? Was the texture smooth or grainy? Do any changes in texture and flavor occur? Take note of how the chocolate leaves the palate. Is there a strong reminder lingering in your mouth, or does it quickly vanish? Note any metallic or unpleasant flavors in the finish. This can be the sign of poorly fermented, stale or lower quality chocolate. Let the after-taste develop and see if you are tempted to come back for more.
    11. Okay, now cleanse your palate and repeat the process with a different dark chocolate. Compare the highlights the subtle flavor notes in each succeeding dark chocolate taste.

Here is great place to start with Choclatique Dark Chocolates found on our website.

Single Origin Tablet

Venezuelan Single-Origin Dark Chocolate Tablet (55%)

Choclatique’s Venezuelan Origin is rich in chocolate aroma with exceptionally complex chocolate notes that are accented by subtle hints of red berry fruit. The cacao beans are sourced and harvested from trees of Criollo and Trinitario heritage in Venezuela’s Sur del Lago region.

Colombian Single-Origin Dark Chocolate Tablet (55%)

Choclatique’s Colombian Origin has penetrating deep, slow, long chocolate flavors that are accented by lovely hints of exotic peppery spice. This single-origin Colombian chocolate pairs beautifully with barista-made coffees and peppery Pinot Noirs from the California Napa Valley.

Ecuadoran Single-Origin Dark Chocolate Tablet (55%)

Choclatique’s Ecuadorean Origin is made from the centuries-old, Ecuadorean Nacional Arriba cacao beans grown solely in Ecuador. This single-origin chocolate offers a perfumed floral scent and traditional Nacional taste which is recognized by its complex accents of green mossy forest, rich black tea, subtle roasted nut after-tones, lingering tropical banana and light toasty caramelized buttery notes.

Madagascar Single-Origin Dark Chocolate Tablet (55%)

Choclatique’s Madagascar Origin is made from the rare Criollo cacao beans that are carefully handcrafted into this delicious tasting, exotic chocolate. It has just enough sugar to bring out the natural richness and fruity flavor of the Madagascar cocoa bean. With flavor notes of tart citrus and the fresh essence of raspberry, these beans from Madagascar create some of the world’s most flavorful chocolate with one-of-a-kind, up-front, deep, rich chocolate flavor. It is light, smooth, mild, and easy to eat.

Peruvian Single-Origin Dark Chocolate Tablet (55%)

Choclatique’s Peruvian Single Origin comes from many tiny plantations producing cocoa beans near Rio Apurimac in the Amazonas region of Peru and the San Martin and Huanuco regions to the east of the Andes in the tropical lowlands. The cacao grown in these regions has an upfront sweetness and hint of the bananas and orchids that grow in the area.

Private Reserve Dark Chocolate Tablets (64%)

Choclatique’s Private Reserve 64% Dark Chocolate is made from 17 equatorial beans grown from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn. They are fermented, dried and roasted to perfection. Our chocolate is conched (blended) to an ultra-smooth texture for 72 hours at precise temperatures to bring out the natural dark fruity flavor of the cacao bean.

Q-91 Functional Dark Chocolate Tablets (91%)

Chocolate Ingot

Choclatique Q-91 is our super-dark, premium functional chocolate very high in cacao mass. It is a unique and complex blend of many different premium beans from each of the three major cacao-growing regions—Central and South America, Africa and Asia. You will taste the essence of ripe cherry and deep chocolate over complex layers of tart citrus, red fruit and roasted nutty notes help up by a solid, deep chocolate base. This high cacao content, medium-bodied, very intense chocolate is smooth on the palate with a long, bittersweet finish.

Congratulations! You are now a professional Choclatique Gourmet chocolate taster.

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How To Taste Chocolate

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

I was recently asked to give a simple answer on how to taste chocolate. There is no simple answer. I have been working with chocolate for 35 years and have found there is no right or wrong way to eat chocolate. The most important thing is to use all of your senses.

The first part of the “eating experience” is the “nose.” Smell the chocolate. I am always disappointed when I walk into a chocolate shop and don’t smell the wonderful aroma of melted chocolate wafting throughout the store.

The next thing is the “look.” If the chocolate looks amazing you can pretty well count on it tasting special. It’s as if you’re looking into the soul of the chocolatier. If a chocolatier takes the time to make his or her chocolate look beautiful you can pretty well be assured that the flavor will be as amazing. That’s not to say that the chocolate will necessarily agree with your tastes, but the quality will reflect the combined body of the chocolatier’s work.

What do you “hear” when you bite into a beautiful truffle or bonbon? Do you hear the snap of well-tempered dark chocolate? If the couverture doesn’t have the right break or snap, the chocolate may have been poorly tempered, heat distressed or of lesser quality.

What is the “texture” like? It is smooth and unctuous?  Is it creamy and velvety? If the answer is “yes,” you’ve discovered the hallmark of good/great chocolate. That means the chocolate has been properly conched—where all of the ingredients (hopefully a limited number of ingredients) are intermingled and completely merged. Conching is like blending but a lot more thorough. It is the marriage of the molecules of the chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla (and milk, in the case of milk chocolate). Choclatique chocolate is conched for 72 hours.  It will always be smooth on the tongue.

And finally, what does it “taste” like? Do you taste fresh rain-foresty flavors or are the cocoa notes dull and over-roasted? Does the milk chocolate give off burnt, overly caramelized dairy notes or is there the flavor of fresh cream and/or milk? How does the chocolate make you feel as you are tasting it? Are you satisfied with just one taste or is your mind coaxing you to eat more.

Try to articulate the flavors you’re tasting, i.e., big chocolate, roasted coffee notes, wine, berry, cherry, tropical-banana, nutty cashew, etc. When comparing different chocolate varieties or flavors back-to-back, you should drink a little room temperature water with a touch lemon to clear the palate. Then swish that water out of your mouth with just plain room temperature water and go on to the next piece. Keep your tasting down to about 4 flavors/varieties at a time. You can always go back for more when you are being less critical and just want to eat chocolate.

All that said, here is how we taste chocolate at Choclatique. When tasting different types of chocolate, we start with low fat varieties and work our way through to higher fat varieties. In other words, start with the dark chocolate, then milk chocolate and then white chocolate. Fat coats the surface of your mouth and can mask some of the more subtle flavors found in good dark chocolate, so if you start with milk or white, you may miss the subtleties of the dark.

We begin by looking at the chocolate to see if it is clean, clear of blemishes, air bubbles and bloom; when chocolate is heat distressed it has a tendency to turn grey-white as the fats separate from the rest of the ingredients. We then rub the chocolate with our fingers to bring it to a warmer surface temperature; this brings out the full value of the chocolate aroma as we inhale. By the way, you should smell the warmed chocolate, not your fingers.

Some of our tasters are “bite and chewers”; I am a “melt-in-your-mouth” kind of guy who enjoys “savoring the flavor.” Chocolate should always be smooth on the tongue and coat the inside of your mouth thoroughly.  You want to be sure that it covers all of the sensory taste buds throughout your mouth to get the full impact of the chocolate flavor.  Then swallow… it is a waste to spit out good chocolate.

Chocolate is food from the gods. It is a mood elevator and, some believe, an aphrodisiac. Treat it as the gift that it is and enjoy it thoroughly. As we have discovered at Choclatique, chocolate is a lot like sex. It’s never really bad; some is just much better than others.

Want to experience your own chocolate tasting? Order our Traditional 4-bar Tablet Sampler—Private Reserve Dark Chocolate (64%); Prestige Milk Chocolate 33%; Azteca Mexican Spiced Chocolate 33%; Snowy-White Chocolate (32%)… just $21, plus shipping.

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