Chocolate consumers fall into a few categories. Some only eat mass produced milk chocolate or something like a Snickers bar. Others are dark chocolate lovers but have only eaten something like Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate (still mass produced and containing very little cocoa mass and almost no cocoa butter). A select class chocolate lovers are eating a variety of gourmet chocolates containing 70% or higher cocoa mass. And the "elite" chocolate lovers have discovered the joy of tasting chocolates made bean-to-bar from cocoa beans of a single origin.
Don't worry if you haven't arrived at the "elite" class of chocolate lovers yet. There is still time, and now, a growing number of options for achieving a great variety of chocolate tasting experiences.
Tasting (I mean, really tasting) chocolate is an experience much like tasting wine or fine cheese. The flavours that develop in an excellent chocolate are complex and vary greatly.
Try this at home. First find a variety of chocolate bars made bean-to-bar with cocoa beans of single origin (Costa Rican, Venezuelan, Madagascar, Peru & Ivory Coast are some examples). You may have to look in your local coop or gourmet grocery store but if you are lucky you may have a bean-to-bar chocolate maker in your area. Set your table with each chocolate on its own plate, be sure to include some bread or filtered water for palette cleansing. Invite some friends and family to "taste" these chocolates.
Each taster should cleanse their palette and take a piece of chocolate...about 1/2 an ounce in size. Observe the colour, texture, and break the piece of chocolate to see if it has the "SNAP". If the chocolate breaks cleanly and appears to have a clean edge, the chocolate is properly tempered.
Cleanse your palette.
Place the chocolate on you tongue and let it begin to melt. Observe and note on a pad of paper the flavours you are experiencing as the chocolate melts. Refrain from chewing the chocolate and observe the texture...do you feel sugar crystals or any grittiness? As the chocolate becomes totally melted move the chocolate across all parts of your tongue to release the "middle" flavors....are you noticing any new flavors? Finally as the chocolate finishes and you eat it, do you taste the "finish"? Make your notes. Cleanse you palette and repeat.
Several types of flavours will appear if it is a good chocolate. Fruit flavours like citrus, melon, cherries, raisin or black currant will present themselves. Darker flavours like coffee, leather and tobacco appear often. But don't forget to notice the spice flavours like cinnamon, vanilla, or pepperiness. Train yourself to discern the differences and enjoy a new world of chocolate enjoyment.
Now you can say you are part of the "elite" chocolate lover crowd!
I used to be a Hershey's Special dark fan...now I make chocolate from bean-to-bar in Puerto Viejo, Limon, Costa Rica. Each batch I make I "taste" the chocolate to learn how I am doing. We are beginning to isolate several zones in Costa Rica and each zone has distinct flavours. If you are coming to Costa Rica, visit us and experience the range of flavour for yourself on our ocean view chocolate tasting platform!
Chocolate Diaries from the Caribeans Bean-To-Bar chocolate maker..