Most people would agree that nothing tastes quite as good as chocolate, often referred to as the ‘Food Of The Gods’. Few people, however, really ‘taste’ chocolate … in the way, for example, that wine is tasted for its aroma and bouquet. Whilst chocolate differs from wine in that it is a solid and does not have the alcoholic and aromatic complexities that wine has, fine chocolate has a vast array of exquisitely subtle flavours that can be appreciated by using a few simple techniques. To ‘taste’ chocolates, you need to engage all five senses.
First, LOOK at the chocolate you are about to taste. The surface should be smooth, shiny or lustrous, and unblemished, indicating that the cocoa butter has properly crystallised or tempered. If the chocolate has a whitish bloomed appearance, this would indicate that it has been exposed to moisture or variations in temperature and although the taste would be largely unaffected, the chocolate would loose its tantalising visual appeal.
Second, TOUCH the chocolate. It should feel smooth and silky and should just begin to melt after being held for a few seconds. The cocoa butter content, is what provides chocolate with its unique claim to being the only food to melt at body temperature.
Third, SMELL the chocolate as soon as it has been opened or unwrapped. You should be met with a delicious, but not overpowering chocolaty aroma. Subtle hints of fruits, berries, nuts, vanilla and other aromas are all indicators of good quality chocolate. Strong individual smells of vanilla, sugar or even nuts, are generally indicators of cheaper, and therefore
poorer quality, chocolate. Be on the look out, as well, for burnt, musty or chemical smells.
Fourth, LISTEN for the snap! When chocolate has been well made, the crystalline
structure of the cocoa butter creates the characteristic clean snap when the chocolate is broken. It should not shatter or splinter.
And finally, TASTE the chocolate. It is important to start with a clean palate as our taste buds adapt to flavours very quickly and, if exposed to other strong flavours immediately beforehand, may not respond properly to the taste of the chocolate. It is best to start with a small piece of chocolate and let it gently melt on the front of your tongue where most of your taste buds are situated. As already explained, good chocolate should start to melt very quickly, followed by the gentle release of all its flavours. This can, in itself, be an immensely satisfying and sensuous experience.
There are a number of specific characteristics to look
out for, when tasting chocolate. First will be whether the chocolate feels waxy or greasy in your mouth. This could indicate that a higher percentage of vegetable fat has been used, instead of cocoa butter. There should not be any strong single flavours and there should be a good balance between bitter, acidity and sweet. Too much sugar can dominate and take over from other flavours. It is possible to taste whether the vanilla is natural or artificial. Natural vanilla has a pure, light and sweet flavour. It should, however, be subtle, as should all other flavours of fruits, berries, nuts or spices.
It goes without saying that there are the obvious differences in taste between dark, milk
and white chocolate. Although chocolate connoisseurs will almost always ‘test and taste’ for quality, as with most things, people have their own tastes and preferences so, in spite of pointing out these characteristics, it will always be up to the individual to decide what most pleases their palate.
Two further, and very important points to note are that good chocolate very much
depends on the quality of the cocoa beans – the best being Criollo – and the quality of the chocolatier. Very simply, the better the bean, the better the chocolate. And the better the chocolatier, the better the recipes.
We, at Amelie, pride ourselves on sourcing our chocolate collections from some of the best chocolatiers across the Continent. As well as never compromising on quality, and yes … we always ‘test and taste’, we are also constantly on the lookout for new and exciting recipes that we can add to our range. So why not try out your new tasting techniques on one of our superb Amelie Chocolate Selections for a truly sensational chocolate experience! And because we always value our customers’ opinions, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know how you got on
with your own ‘test and taste’ experience and what you thought of our products. We’d love to hear from you!