I'm sitting in the factory prepping for a tour for the Bachelor of Culinary Arts first year students which has me reflecting on the science of tasting chocolate. There are so many components to truly savouring chocolate and I thought it might be useful to share some of this process.
The first part of the tasting is with your eyes. Like most food we eat, our eyes tell us what to expect. A well tempered chocolate should be smooth, with a gloss and uniform colour. Next, it's recommended that you smell the chocolate. A good trick is to gently rub the surface of the chocolate with your thumb to warm it up. This releases more aroma than sniffing cold.
Next, snap the bar. "Snap" is the result of the amount and quality of the cocoa butter in the chocolate, how small the chocolate particles are, and how expertly the chocolate has been tempered.
After looking, smelling, and snapping, you are finally allowed to put the chocolate in your mouth. But, don't chew! Rather, keep the chocolate on the roof of your mouth and glide your tongue over the bottom of it, noticing first how it melts and then how it feels. Does it melt readily and feel smooth and creamy, or greasy and slimy? Maybe it resists melting and seems hard or waxy? Does it feel grainy or gritty, powdery, harsh, or drying? All of these components of texture tell you about the quality of the chocolate.
Finally, the taste or flavour of the chocolate is assessed. At first there is so much pleasure in tasting the chocolate, it may be difficult to focus on the specifics of flavour.
Does the flavour come on quickly or slowly?
Does the flavour build and peak or remain constant?
Does the flavour change character from the beginning to the middle to the end?
How long does the flavor last in your mouth?
Professional chocolate tasters often look for a “long finish.” This is simply flavour that lasts a long time in your mouth.
Hopefully these tips will help you enjoy your chocolate more in the future.