It feels like magic each and every time you unwrap a chocolate bar: The creamy texture and rich taste combine to give you shivers of delight from your head to your toes. You love chocolate in every form, from hot chocolate to chocolate ice cream, and you never pass up the opportunity to taste a new style or brand. Sometimes you wonder how you can make tasting chocolate your profession.
In fact, chocolate connoisseurs do exist. These enviable professionals work to review chefs’ and companies’ confections and guide recipes for the ultimate chocolate experiences. However, no matter how much chocolate you eat in your lifetime, you won’t be prepared to act as a chocolate connoisseur without the proper palate. If you are dedicated to teaching your taste buds to catch chocolate’s every complexity, read on to learn the details of this delicious discipline.
Primarily, Prepare a Place
Chocoholics are eager to indulge in their vice come rain or shine, but professional chocolate tasters have strict preferences for when and where they sample sweets. Quiet, secluded rooms are best, and temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit or lower are even better. Real connoisseurs also argue strongly that the palate should be free from any other taste influences, which means tasters must perform on an empty stomach, having eaten no fewer than two hours prior to the event. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that most tastings occur in the morning.
Still, researchers argue that because chocolate can trigger the release of positive endorphins from the brain, any location can be the ideal space to taste the treats. Places that have a strong emotional appeal can be just as beneficial to the chocolate experience as cold, segregated tasting rooms. Thus, you might prefer to sample your sweets at a chocolate mecca, like Hershey’s Chocolate World in Las Vegas, where you’ll never run out of treats to taste.
Look Before You Bite
Before you lay a finger on your favorite smooth, creamy treat, you should inspect your chocolate end to end for tell-tale signs of high quality. Wine connoisseurs can usually discern a grape varietal (and even a vineyard) from color alone, but chocolate lovers need only inspect their bar for a certain hue to determine whether or not the chocolate is worth eating.
While the world at large associates chocolate with the color brown, this delectable sweet actually begins its life in a startling shade of purple. Roasting and other production processes modify the food’s coloration, but in fine chocolate, you should be able to see hints of the original shade. Ideal edible chocolate should be a strong mahogany, which is rich brown with a red undertone.
Breathe in Deep
Your mouth must wait a little while longer, for before your tongue gets to play, your nose must sniff out the subtle aromas of your chocolate. This is likely a completely new experience for you if your chocolate lives hand-to-mouth. To properly smell your sweets, cup your hands around your chocolate and your mouth and nostrils, and deeply inhale through your nose. You’ll be able to pick up notes that you’ve never before noticed but which make high quality chocolates taste so much more complex.
The type and duration of chocolate manufacturing can have significant impact on the aromas of various chocolates. Here are some aromas (besides cocoa) you might look out for during your next sniffing session:
Finally, Find the Flavor
After all that preparation, you are finally ready to taste the treat: Place a small piece of chocolate on your tongue, and let your palate parse out the different flavors. Here, professional chocolate tasters differ on what makes for the best chocolate. The balance between sugar-sweet and chocolate-deep is highly subjective, so most experts advise that you find what suits your preferences rather than deferring to an expert’s opinion.
Yet, one aspect holds true across the board: The highest-quality chocolate will linger in your mouth long after the sweet has dissolved, so you can enjoy your treat for a few minutes before taking another bite.
Take the Next Step
After you master these four first steps to professional tasting, you might be ready for a career as a chocolate connoisseur. However, experts can spend an entire lifetime devoted to the art without ever receiving written or monetary recognition for their efforts. Thus, you might find more satisfaction opening a box of assorted chocolates and indulging your refined palate on the couch with a friend than sampling an unrefined bar in a dark, frigid room, all by your lonesome, like most true connoisseurs do.