If you’re going to spend upward of $8 for a fancy craft-chocolate bar, you really shouldn’t mindlessly gobble it while rushing to catch the bus (not that I’ve ever done that). We thought to help those that are quiet sweet-toothed fully appreciate their bars. Here are some of our tips:
Taste a few bars at a time.
It’s easier to understand the nuances when you can compare different chocolates to one another. Four to six is a good number, but even playing two off each other helps.
Keep it cool.
Never store chocolate in the refrigerator, or next to a radiator or the stove. Keep it dry and cool, between 20 -24 degrees in a dark place like the basement, the back of your pantry, or perched in a box on a cupboard. You can seal the chocolate in an airtight container to protect it. Before tasting, let the chocolate come to room temperature, around 24 degrees. With chocolate, even a few degrees makes a difference.
Give it a good look.
Unwrap the bar. If you see any white patches or a dusty coating that you fear might be mold, rest assured, it’s not. It’s a sign that the chocolate has bloomed — that the emulsification from tempering has broken, and the fat or sugars, or both, have risen to the surface. You can still eat the chocolate, but it might be gritty or greasy. (You may want to save it for baking, or melt it into hot chocolate). Well-tempered chocolate will look shiny, and you’ll hear a snap when you break off a piece.
Note the colour.
Chocolate varies in hue depending on the variety and origin of the cacao beans. Chocolate from Ghana and Tanzania may be darker than that from Madagascar, which has a reddish cast. And if you’re lucky enough to get chocolate made from Porcelana or Peruvian Nacional beans, it might have the amber shade of maple syrup.
Take a whiff.
Before biting in, break a piece off and give it a sniff. The strongest aroma will come from the edge that’s just been cut. The aromas are linked to the chocolate’s flavours, helping you identify them once you start tasting.
Now taste it.
Pop that piece in your mouth. Let it melt on your tongue for a few seconds to warm it up, then chew it a few times before letting it melt some more. As it dissolves, different and possibly mind-blowing flavours will emerge. Tasting chocolate is completely subjective; there’s no right or wrong. But once you start cataloguing the flavours you perceive, you’ll start to recognize what kinds of tastes you typically get, and which ones you like. If you’re tasting several chocolates in one sitting, it can be helpful to use palate cleaners (lemon water or plain crackers) between bars.