Anybody can enjoy chocolate — but how many people fully experience it? Getting into chocolate is a lot like entering the world of coffee or wine. There’s complexity and fun. The more you learn, the more pleasure you can have in each taste.
If you’re interested in gaining more appreciation for the aromatic families of flavors in chocolate, here’s a guide to help.
From floral to fruity, there are many profiles that can distinguish a chocolate bar’s flavor. Here are the seven basic aromatic families into which chocolate falls, along with some of the vibes they tend to evoke:
- Balsamic: Cozy, childhood happiness while drinking hot cocoa
- Roasted: Snuggling with loved ones in a warm place while it’s snowing outside
- Fruity: Baking with family members at harvest time
- Citrus: Summertime freshness and joy in the garden as a child
- Herbal: Taking a peaceful walk in the beauty of the South of France
- Floral: Walking outside as springtime flowers begin to bloom
- Spiced: Sensual, exotic pleasure and mystery
How to Conduct a Chocolate Tasting
Setting up a chocolate tasting is all about learning to fully appreciate what you’re consuming. By paying more attention to the details — and, in particular, comparing those details to one another — you can enhance your enjoyment. Start with these steps:
- Curate a selection of chocolate bars to sample. Maybe you want to compare bars with similar origins, flavor profiles or extremely basic ingredients. Perhaps you want to pick three or four bars with the same cacao content and compare their tastes. Buy directly from the chocolatiers, if possible, and try to focus the tasting on a handful of varieties.
- Store them properly. Chocolate does best when stored in a dry, dark place. Keep your bars in a place that’s between 63 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, away from sunlight. That said, you can fully taste chocolate most when it’s at room temperature, so let it warm slightly before tasting.
- Prepare some palate cleansers. To help ensure you get the purest sense of the chocolate flavors, have some palate cleansers on hand to take between tastes. Examples include cool water with lemon, warm green tea, or sparkling water with or without lemon.
- Gather information about the bars. Understanding a bar starts with reading its wrapper. This is where you can learn what ingredients it contains, its origins, its percentage and, through the expiration date, how fresh it is.
- Unwrap each bar. The next step in investigating a bar is to look at it, unwrapped. What color is it? Is it shiny? Does it have white spots, which can indicate blooming? (If so, this doesn’t harm the chocolate, but may impact your ability to taste it fully.)
- Touch it. How does the bar feel? Is it smooth and dry? If you gently rub the corner, it should start to slightly melt. Hold the residue up to your nose for a first smell and lick your fingers for an initial taste.
- Listen to it. When breaking a piece of chocolate from the bar, does it snap? The higher the cocoa content, the more pronounced this should be.
- Smell it. Take a small piece of chocolate, rub it between your thumb and forefinger, and cup it in your hands. Inhale deeply and note the scent.
- Taste it. Place a small square of chocolate on the center of your tongue. Hold it there for a few seconds, and slowly work it around your mouth. As it melts on your tongue, note each of the flavors you’re experiencing.
Repeat the tasting process for each bar and compare the differences. The more you practice proper tasting, the more you’ll learn about bars, as well as your preferences. For further help, see the accompanying resource. In it, you’ll find information on the various aromatic families, as well as an easy-to-follow flavor wheel.
This infographic was created by Richart, a gourmet french chocolate company
Author bio: Gautier Richart is a third-generation chocolatier at RICHART. In line with his father and grandfather, he has a passion for gourmet chocolate and more generally for the art of tasting.