The Taste of Chocolate

Xocolatl connoisseurship (being beyond a chocolate aficionado) is a thing!  And some people take it really seriously.  Like connoisseurs of fine wine, there is a degree of expert level enthusiasts of chocolate that are solemnly committed to the perspicacity thereof.  We’ll cover the basics herein as it is good to know, no matter what your endeavor of chocolate is all about…

After you’ve learned about the types of chocolate and the types of bean from here:
 (The Scoop on Chocolate)

Plus more from this Article Series:   Introduction to Chocolate  —  Making Chocolate
Food – Health Benefits   Resources – Fun Facts Side Notes

Then you’re ready to begin your chocolate tasting adventures here:


You now know the beans… (we spilled them from The Scoop of ChocolateSo now, we get into the good stuff… that is… eating the stuff with a passion!  So first know that a chocoholic is by no means necessarily a chocolate connoisseur or vice versa; the names are not synonymous to those who are serious about it.  A connoisseur takes into account the look, feel, smell, and even sound (the snap) into account as well as the taste when enjoying their chocolate.  They tend to take their time and enjoy these other aspects at a much more meaningful pace than a chocoholic who tends to be more concerned with more of a candy rush.


The Techniques

  • The Setting of the room

Some connoisseurs subscribe to a type of chocolate therapy wherein they may prepare a chocolate lift experience filling their room with relaxing music, allowing the aroma of the chocolate and/or other combined scents to fill the area.  This is also often done for set calculated times such as ten minutes per session.   They may do this therapy for differing personal reasons, but it is usually to relax.

  • Resetting and Cleansing of the Palate

This is what you do preparing for and between sampling each of different chocolates.   You do this because in most cases, you don’t want the previous chocolate that you just ate to have any influence upon your taste buds on the next sampling of the next piece of chocolate that you may be comparing the previous piece to.  This is also done in preparation for the start of a chocolate tasting session; as you don’t want any previous foods that you may have eaten to still be on the palate.  You also do not want to eat chocolate after brushing teeth or using mouthwash.  There’s several ways to reset your palate between chocolate samplings.   Some contend that cleansing of the palate is somewhat different than the resetting of the palate; the technical cleansing of the palate is what you would do before any sampling of chocolates has begun, whereas resetting of the palate is done between samplings.  Lemon sorbet is often used to cleanse the palate.  Table water crackers are often used to reset the palate.  In any case, distilled water is often used in combination of these.


Don’t always be concerned with the bean!

The bean is not the only thing to consider when sampling chocolates.  And don’t believe that the Criollo bean necessarily makes for the best tasting chocolate.  Higher price and/or rarity does not by any means necessarily translate to better in taste or even quality.   It really is a matter of personal taste. For example, ABC News** conducted a blind taste test of chocolate and the results suggest personal preference dominates best taste in accordance to the individual.   Know that the flavor of the bean can further be attributed to the soil it was grown in, sunshine, rainfall, temperature it was growing in, and how the beans were fermented.  Some contend that these factors are far more important than the type of bean used.

Instead of always sampling by bean type and mixture, you might also try sampling by country or region.  For example, you could try chocolates either made in or the beans sourced from:

  • The Caribbean
    • Jamaica
    • Grenada
  • Central America
    • Mexico
  • South America
    • Brazil
    • Ecuador/Peru
  • Africa
    • and surrounding Islands
  • Asia
    • Vietnam
    • Philippines
  • Other
    • Places like Hawaii for example
      apart from the norm of the 20
      degrees N and S of the equator

Qualities:

The qualities concerning chocolate bars that connoisseurs rank and judge include:

  • Sight:  They look for things like smoothness, bloom (fat and/or sugar crystals rising to the surface), color, darkness
  • Smell:  The aroma might be something like vanilla, floral, or spicey
  • Feel:  Texture, any lumps, etc.
  • Sound:   The snap when a piece is broken off from the bar
  • Taste:  Usually the last quality to be tested

Taste:

Though scientists describe no more than seven basic tastes that are able to be tasted by humans with five primary tastes — sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami —(supposedly all of the other tastes are just a combination of two or more of those five);  they can often be better described without the varying degrees of those, and rather assigned names for descriptions even when those tastes do not technically exist.  The following are some of the many tastes described by chocolate connoisseurs.  Keep in mind that the tastes are simply what can be described, even just in notes, hints, or tones.  It doesn’t mean that the described elements are actually in the chocolate.  Though sometimes they can be, mostly they are used to describe each of the picked up tastes.  There can be several of these tastes in each bar, or none, one, all, or more…

Dairy

  • Milky
  • Caramelized
  • Buttery
  • Cultured
Chocolaty

  • Rich
  • Bland
  • Astringent
  • Dutched
  • Maltish
Earthy

  • Herbal
  • Strawberry
  • Woodsy
  • Dusty
  • Burlap
  • Mushroom
Roasted

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Toasty
  • Smokey
  • Nutty
  • Tobacco
Medicinal or Chemical Flavor Notes

  • Bitter
  • Plastic
  • Rubber
  • Metallic
Fruity

  • Citrus
  • Berries
  • Tropical
  • Tart
  • Sour

These are of course in addition to or separate from the primary descriptive flavors: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami.


 

 

 

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