(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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.