How to Taste Chocolate Like an Expert
Posted on September 12 2018
We all love eating chocolate, but is there a “right way” to taste its delicious flavor profile? We recently sat down with our resident Maui Ku‘ia Estate Chocolate experts, Gunars Valkirs—CEO and Daniel O’Doherty—VP, Chocolate Operations and asked them, how do you taste chocolate?
Gather your high-quality chocolate and a large glass of room temperature water, find a peaceful place, follow the tips below and savor your chocolate tasting experience!
Step One: Cleanse Your Palate
Before tasting, cleanse your palate by drinking water. It’s important to choose room temperature water, as it will allow the chocolate to melt properly in your mouth, ensuring you get the full flavor experience.
Try not to eat anything strong; foods such as garlic, onion, and mint can affect your chocolate tasting, as can the acidity found in citrus fruits and juice. If you can’t avoid strong flavors, eat a neutral starch such as a plain water cracker first and then rinse with room temperature water.
It’s important to remember that the chocolate you are tasting has a strong flavor of its own, so you will also need to cleanse your palate in between each piece. If not, you may have residual flavors that could affect your perception of the different varieties.
Step Two: Look at the Chocolate
The tasting process begins with your eyes. Look at the chocolate and evaluate how it appears: Can you see the care with which it was tempered and molded, do you see any bubbles or irregularities in the surface, or perhaps there are swirl marks or light colors indicating bloom? Also, consider the color of the chocolate—the darkness of the bar will suggest what percentage of cacao it contains.
Step Three: Rub and Smell the Chocolate
As with wine tasting, smell the chocolate before tasting it. Try pre-warming your piece of chocolate by rubbing it gently between thumb and forefinger and then breathe in deeply, enjoying its aroma. Some of the flavor notes will be evident, such as fruitiness, which derives from volatile organic compounds. There can be a huge difference between what you smell and what you taste, as some chocolates are low in aroma but big in flavor.
Step Four: Taste the Chocolate
Take a small piece of chocolate and chew it briefly, breaking it into a couple of fragments with the teeth, as this will help it to melt. It’s during this time, before the chocolate melts completely, that you will get your first flavor impressions. Factors such as the sugar content and whether it is fruity or not will be readily evident within the first 10 seconds. As the chocolate melts, which can take a minute or more, you will get the full flavor effect.
Step Five: Pay Attention to the Finish
Excellent chocolate should leave a lingering, pleasant taste in the mouth and its finish is extremely important because it can last for many minutes. It is worth remembering that the flavors you are tasting are a result of very fine chocolate particles being entrapped in your tongue and taste buds. Because they are particles, they don’t wash away rapidly, and if your chocolate has a poor finish you will remember it for a long time. Bad chocolate literally leaves a bad taste in the mouth!
Step Six: Reset Your Palate
If you are tasting a variety of chocolates, remember to cleanse your palate each time. Try eating a plain cracker in between bites and then wash it down with room temperature water.
Inside Tip: Pair Contrasting Flavors
When you are tasting chocolate, try to work through a sequence of contrasting flavors so that each one really stands out. There is no need to be too strict about the order in which they are sampled—unless they are flavored, in which case you may want to save the bold flavors until last. Starting with the milder chocolates and working up to the higher percentages of cacao works great for blind tastings or chocolate tasting parties.
We hope you enjoyed our chocolate tasting guide, check out our YouTube channel for a full-length video featuring expert advice from Gunars and Dan!