As we’re gearing up for Easter weekend- a time when we eat the equivalent of our own body weight in chocolate- we thought it would be a good idea to explore chocolate tasting- for those true chocolate lovers.
Chocolate and wine have a lot in common… Just as the altitude and climate affect the grapes in a fine wine, the same things affect the flavour of beans in a cocoa pod. You get the finest wine when you give the finest grapes to a talented maker. And the same is true for chocolate. When the best cocoa beans are given to a skilled maker who takes the time to hand craft every stage from bean to bar, you find yourself with a chocolate that deserves to be savoured. There’s just one catch — while whole books have been written about how best to enjoy a fine wine, very little has been written about how to enjoy a bar of chocolate. Most of us reach for a chocolate bar for a mid afternoon pick me up and eating it without much thought. But when a maker has taken the time to directly source their beans from a particular origin, then painstakingly draw out the flavours of their beans origin, wouldn’t it be nice to know what to look out for?
Our friends at Cocoa Runners, spend their lives running around the world, trying to find the very best chocolate bars. And today they’re presenting their five point bluffer’s guide to tasting chocolate.
1. Look at the bar. Is it shiny and glossy, or does it have a dusty white powder on the surface? The white powder is the fat in the bar, that has risen to its surface. This normally happens when a bar has melted and reset, and is a sign that it hasn’t been properly stored. This is particularly true of dark chocolate.
2. Break off a piece. Does it break with a nice clean snap, or does it crumble? As well as a wonderfully glossy finish, a well tempered bar should break with ease.
3. Hold the bar for a second. Does it start to melt? Artisan chocolate bars contain cocoa butter, and this melts quickly at body temperature. Most mainstream bars start to crumble and flake instead of melting. This is because of a trick used my many mainstream chocolate makers – they separate the cocoa powder from the cocoa butter and sell it off to the cosmetics industry for use in moisturisers, lipsticks, etc, then replace it with cheaper fats.
4. Smell the bar. Can you smell citrus, berries or nuts? We’ve already said that tasting chocolate is like tasting a fine wine, and following your nose is just as important here as it is there. A good proportion of the flavours in any food or drink comes from their aroma. A wealth of aromas are released the moment you unwrap a craft chocolate bar.
5. Finally, put a piece on your tongue and rather than chewing it, let it melt. As it melts, different layers reveal themselves. Quite often, rich Dominican cocoa starts with a punchy, chocolate ganache note that develops to leave an earthy finish. Or the initial berry notes of a Madagascan bar transform into a citrus ending.
All told, there are over 400 distinct flavour compounds in chocolate, and taste is extremely subjective. What’s more, it’s influenced by everything you’ve eaten and drunk throughout the day. While it’s always tempting to devour a whole bar in a moment of weakness, we hope our bitesize guide has left you equipped to savour a craft chocolate bar with the best of them.
Want to find out more about the world of craft chocolate? Visit Cocoa Runners and use code Cornerstone to get £5 off your first purchase.*
*Terms & Conditions: This offer entitles you to £5 off a Cocoa Runners gift box or subscription box and can only be used once per customer. £15 Minimum spend required. This offer expires on 31 May 2016.