Chocolate tasting mistakes
Enjoying high-quality chocolate is an experience like no other. The flavors are rich and complex. As a result gourmet chocolate tasting is becoming similar to wine tasting. Words as spicy, floral, earthy, dried grasses, fruity, cinnamon, walnut, caramel, smoky, wood notes, roasted coffee, berry, blackcurrant, tobacco, and citrus notes describe the large variation in chocolate flavors. You’ll be amazed at just how different chocolate can taste at different times of the day.
Flavor notes gradually evolve rather than having an short explosion of taste. It is important to notice how the flavor evolves from beginning, middle, to end, and how the flavor exists in the finish (after the chocolate has melted). Study the taste and texture and take notes.
Here are some of the most frequent mistakes you can make:
Tasting in a strong-smelling room
It is imperative to taste chocolate in an environment free of distractions and background noise or smells. Odors can influence the taste of chocolate because our taste buds on the tongue can literally taste the chemical particles in the air. It is not such a good idea to do a tasting in a kitchen while being used for cooking. Find a room, quiet and free from strong smells to do tastings.
Not cleaning your palate
Your palate should be clean. This means that your mouth should not contain residual flavors from a previous meal. Eat a wedge of apple or piece of bread to remove preexisting flavors.
It is certainly not a good idea to brush your teeth right before the tasting or drink coffee. These are very strong tastes that will influence your taste buds for a long time.
If you’re tasting more than a couple of chocolates, you should have a glass of water at room temperature as a palate cleanser between tastings.
Tasting chocolates straight out of the fridge
Never taste cold chocolate. Allow the chocolate to rest at room temperature before tasting. The delicate chocolate and filling aroma’s don’t get the chance to unfold themselves.
Not tasting the chocolates in the right order
It is wise to start from the lower percentage and work your way up. There might be some exceptions to the rule and some chocolates at a lower percentage can be stronger because of their filling.
Being in a hurry
Taste chocolate carefully so that you can extract the fullest flavor potential. Take your time and use all your senses:
Observe the characteristics of the chocolates. A high shine indicates a well-tempered chocolate. Dark chocolate will naturally have a higher shine than milk chocolate. Molded pralines will be shinier than enrobed (coated) chocolates.
Chocolate with white stains can reveal temperature or humidity problems during storage or bad tempering during production.
Try to detect different kinds of aromas. It might help you to concentrate if you close your eyes.
There may be more than 600 different natural aromas in a piece of chocolate. Compare what you smell to other familiar smells.
Snap and feeling
Hear the snap of the chocolate when you break it.
Chocolate with a higher cacao content will break cleanly with a sharper sound, whereas chocolate with lower cacao percentages will tend to break more softly.
Some pralines have nuts, cocoa nibs or feuilletine fillings that crackle between your teeth. They bring texture to your tongue and a pleasant sound to your ears.
Place only a small piece in the center of your tongue then wait for the chocolate or praline to begin to melt.
Then, place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and swirl the melting chocolate all over each area of your tongue. Note the early flavors, the smoothness, the mouthfeel, and the finish.
A chocolate tasting is so much fun to do with friends. It teaches you a lot about the world of chocolate and enriches your senses.
Written by: Hilde Van den Bossche, CEO