Tasting chocolate will allow you to savour all the richness of the aromatic notes of the most precious cocoa.
Chocolate can be tasted any time of the day, alone or among friends and family. There is no need for a graduated sommelier or special tools to taste chocolate; get a few different chocolates and enjoy like it was a game.
We advise you to avoid rooms with strong scents that might interfere with the flavours and do not eat before tasting.
Pick any dark chocolates you would like to discover. Read your labels - real dark chocolate is made only from cocoa mass and sugar, sometimes also with added cocoa butter. Real dark chocolate also doesn't expire if protected from the heat. It can last for months, if not years.
Start here with some simple steps that will help you taste chocolate.
1. Visual inspection of chocolate
The chocolate should not be black. Instead, it should have mahogany and cinnamon red tones. The intensity of the colour depends on the roast (the longer roasting, the darker colour) and the amount of cocoa used.
The chocolate surface should be glossy, without any white patina. It should also appear smooth, without stains and colour differences. Chocolate gloss is due to a process known as tempering. Temperature changes can cause sugar and cocoa butter crystals to emerge, so the look of chocolate might change.
2. Chocolate to the touch
Breaking a chocolate bar should make a typically dry, loud "snap".
The speed at which the chocolate melts in the mouth depends on the amount of sugar it contains.
Lastly, look for its creaminess: chocolate should be neither astringent nor sticky, but creamy.
- Tactile finesse: It is judged based on the micronization of the emulsified solids in cocoa butter.
- Astringency: Must be unnoticeable, almost absent. Astringency is when the saliva in your mouth gives you a feeling of drying and roughing.
- Roundness: Roundness is related to the feeling that you feel when chocolate melts in your mouth. Chocolate roundness is directly related to the quality of cocoa fermentation and the genetic quality of cocoa. Good quality chocolate will have good creaminess and roundness.
3. Chocolate to the nose
Sniff the chocolate by breathing in for around 3 seconds: chocolate smell should be free of any scents of burning, animal notes, rancid, mould or over-fermentation (putrid smell).
4. Chocolate on the tongue
The chocolate tasting phase involves evaluating indicators of sweetness,
acidity and bitterness. The variables that can affect this phase are the fermentation protocols, the genetic selection of the beans, the processing temperatures and, finally, the chosen recipe. Good chocolate must be well-balanced on these three parameters, without excess.
- Sweetness: A quality of premium cocoa.
- Bitterness: Must be perceived as a pleasant quality. Too much bitterness is due to unsatisfactory fermentation or poor quality cocoa.
- Acidity: Should be low. Excessive acidity is caused by fermentation or processing errors.
We can detect flavour via both our mouths and our noses. So as we eat, chew, melt and swirl the chocolate around our mouth, flavours will release. Same as with wine, chocolate will develop many aromas as you enjoy it in your mouth. You can only detect an infinite range of aromas hidden inside each cocoa bean. When diluted in saliva, the molecules that make up the aromatic compounds allow them to reach our olfactory epithelium indirectly.
The aromatic range depends on each cocoa bean's genetic variety, region of origin, the fermentation protocols used, and the method of transforming the cacao into chocolate.
- Intensity: Evaluation of the volume of a single aroma.
- Wealth: Evaluation of the number of different aromatic tones.
- Fineness: Evaluation of the combined quality of aromas.
- Persistence: Evaluation of the duration of aromas on the palate.
Are you ready to taste some chocolate?
We recommend starting with Domori Single Origins and Criollo chocolate. However, do not stop there; buy, taste, and compare different chocolate brands. Train and refine your palate.
If you do not feel like doing the first tasting steps alone and prefer to create a palate with an experienced guide, Svein-Magnus Sørensen is the right person to contact. Sjokoladesmaking.no organizes both in-person and online chocolate tastings. Svein-Magnus is one of Norway's foremost experts in chocolate tasting and an active contributor to the international chocolate community. He works as a regular chocolate judge at the International Chocolate Awards and is a well-known profile at many chocolate conferences. Learn from the best!
Another tip from our side, if you wish to dive into the chocolate world, follow the most passionate chocolate journalist out there - Sharon from the Chocolate Journalist blog. Sharon delivers the latest news and trends from the chocolate industry on her website and social media accounts.