how to taste chocolate

Quality chocolate contains complex and intriguing flavors not typically associated with chocolate (berries, citrus, coffee, caramel, floral, spice, etc). Flavors may come and go quickly while others linger. All flavors originate from unique and complex cocoa varieties, origins, growing conditions, and through chocolate manufacturing processes.

 

Don't forget that taste is individual. You will experience flavors differently than others. Above all, discover what you like! 

 

before tasting 

Tasting chocolate is different than eating chocolate candy - save fine chocolate tastings for times when you can enjoy the experience. Be sure to avoid strong food or drink an hour prior to tasting - your palate can be saturated by other flavors causing you to miss subtleties of fine chocolates.

 

during tasting 

OBSERVE - chocolate should be smooth and shiny; break off a small piece. There should be a discernible snap. These are indicators that the chocolate was properly tempered.
 
SMELL - taste is ninety percent smell. Chocolate in your hand will begin to melt and produce an aroma. Do you sense anything specific? Make note of your impressions. 
 
TASTE - let it melt on your tongue, do not chew. As it melts and reaches different flavor centers on your tongue, you may sense different flavors come and go. Ask yourself these questions:
 
  • was there a quick sensation or did the flavor take time to develop? (fast vs. slow start)
  • what did you taste?
  • did the flavor change as the piece melted or stay constant? (flavor profile)
  • did any new sensations emerge as the piece finished melting? (a unique finish)
  • once the piece was gone, did the flavor leave quickly or linger for a time? (quick vs. long finish)

chocolate tasting suggestions

  • select no more than five or six chocolates to taste in one session to avoid saturating your palate
  • selecting a supermarket grade chocolate as one of your samples can be illustrative in identifying contrasts between fine and average chocolate
  • try selecting chocolate with similar attributes (such as cocoa percent or origin) from different manufacturers - results will be noteworthy
  • use room temperature water and plain crackers, carrot sticks, etc. between samples to cleanse your palate
  • note your impressions for each chocolate and rank them in order of personal preference to help identify characteristics you prefer
    

describing your chocolate experience

It can be challenging describing your tasting experience in terms other than personal preference. Try to find associations with the world around you.

    Ask: what does this remind me of?

      These descriptions below are common terms used in chocolate tasting - they may help you articulate your sensations.
          

      GENERAL SENSATIONS

       acidic describes a tart, "twangy", or sour taste
      assertive upfront, forward; taste is immediate and pronounced 
      astringent dry, mouth-puckering sensation caused by tannins found in many fruits; characterized by rough "sandpapery" sensation in the mouth (also see "tannin")
      bitter one of the four basic tastes
      empty flavorless and uninteresting
      neutral without outstanding characteristics, good or bad
      salt one of the four basic tastes
      short finish taste does not remain on the palate after swallowing
      sour one of the four basic tastes
      sweet one of the four basic tastes
      tannin describes a dry sensation with flavors of leather and tea
      tart sharp-tasting because of acidity (also see "acidic")
      velvety having rich flavor and a silky texture
           

        

      SPECIFIC FLAVOR NOTES

       fruity berries, citrus, tropical fruit, dried cherries, dried raisins, dried plums, dried bananas
      roasted cocoa, coffee, smokey, tea, tobacco, burnt sugar or caramel
      nutty all nuts
      floral rose, jasmine, orange blossom
      earthy woody, toasted grain, dried herbs, mushroom, moss, fresh grass/hay, wet soil, musty/moldy
      spicy vanilla, liquorices, anise, cinnamon, cloves, mint, pepper
      other leather, honey, bread/yeast, cream/milk, buttery