12 February 2007

How to Taste Chocolate

Yesterday 14 intrepid volunteers journeyed through a rainstorm to risk falling into a sugar-induced coma all for the sake of my Chocolate Project. Today 4 more people will be added to their numbers.

This is the week of my Blind Chocolate Tastings to decide which of the most popular of Zürich's chocolatiers would prove to be the favorite.

On Wednesday, in honor of Valentine's Day, I shall post the winning chocolate!

But first, a bit of information on How to Taste Chocolate.

Silly me! I've just been eating it all these years. What was I thinking? Chocolate tasting is both a skill and an art form. There are professional chocolate tasters out there. And I would like to know what their training is and how I might get one of those jobs!

In preparation for the Blind Chocolate Tasting, I researched how a chocolate tasting should be conducted and what tasters should be analyzing.

Chocolate should have an even texture and a shiny gloss with no discoloration. Good gloss indicates proper tempering in the production process. Discoloration and/or lack of gloss indicates either that the product sat on the store shelf for too long or that it has undergone a temperature change after production.

The feel of the chocolate should be neither too hard nor too soft. It should melt easily and leave an even coat of chocolate on your fingers. Chocolate that does not melt easily or evenly indicates the use of vegetable oil instead of pure cocoa oil.

A high quality dark chocolate should have a clear, crisp “snap” when it breaks. It should break evenly with no crumbs. This indicates a high cocoa content and even tempering.

Milk chocolate and white chocolate are excluded from the “snap” test. As they have a higher cocoa fat content, they will not break as cleanly.

Is it fruity? Spicy? Floral? Bready? Woody?

Similar to wine, chocolate will have distinct aromas that indicate not only how it was prepared, but also the type of bean used and the region in which the bean was produced. Some chocolate experts can tell you this information by only sniffing the chocolate.

Technical term for, literally, how the chocolate feels in your mouth. Good chocolate will liquefy without being chewed. Chocolate should be smooth, not grainy or gritty. It can be velvety or creamy depending upon how much cocoa butter was used in the making. What one prefers is a matter of personal taste. However, if it has a waxy feel it indicates that a vegetable oil was used in place of cocoa oil.

First put a small amount of chocolate in your mouth and let it melt to evaluate the feel. Then place a second piece in your mouth and chew it to determine the feel and texture in that way.

As the chocolate melts in your mouth, the different tastes will reveal themselves. The initial taste, the mid-palate and the aftertaste. The aftertaste may be short or long. It may be sweet or bitter. Again, much of this is a matter of personal taste rather than what it "should" be.


CanadianSwiss said...

Wow. You really did your homework! ime to practise your skills now ;)

Global Librarian said...

Chocolate is a very serious matter. Chocolate tasting preparation is NOT to be taken lightly!

The Big Finn said...

Mrs. TBF is going to kill me when I admit this in public (and maybe others, too), but...


...I prefer Hershey's chocolate to any Swiss chocolate I've ever tasted. Hershey's Kisses are usually in my carry-on when I come back from the U.S., I put them in the freezer in a Ziploc bag, and I guard them with my life.

There...I said it!

Also, I would rank Belgian chocolate ahead of Swiss chocolate...

Wait...who's knocking on my door?

"Polizei, who?"

Global Librarian said...

I am an equal opportunity chocolate eater. I would never deprive someone else of the joy to be had from Hershey's kisses.

The only chocolate I once tried and would never, ever eat again is a bar of all natural, organically grown, no sugar added chocolate that professed to be "good for the environment."

Part of the proceeds from the sale went to some organization that protected wildlife or trees or something. (Didn't really care. It was the chocolate I was after.)

I'm no expert on environmental issues and cannot comment on that aspect of the chocolate company's claim. But I can tell you that I took one bite and actually spit it out. It was the most disgusting chocolate ever.

gls said...

Wow, you really did do your homework. This must be why you aren't around to answer the phone when I try to call :)

Un-Swiss Miss said...

A few years ago one of my friends and I organized a dark chocolate tasting. We ended up with over 40 bars, which was way too ambitious for one sitting even though we were only tasting one tiny square at a time. We ended up doing two sitting (one sub 70% and one above 70%). Afterward, I couldn't look at another bar of chocolate for about a year...

Global Librarian said...

Hey Un-Swiss - good thing it was a couple of years ago, 'cause you're in Switzerland now. If you couldn't even look at chocolate, you'd have to sew your eyes shut.