How to taste and describe chocolate

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Gone are the days when your only chocolate choices were milk chocolate or dark. Here's how to taste, judge and describe chocolates like a connoisseur, from chocolate expert and author Clay Gordon.

meet theexpert
  • Clay Gordon

    Clay Gordon Author, Discover Chocolate Clay Gordon shares his passion for chocolate through writings, classes and events, and especially via the web at chocophile.com and discoverchocolate.com. He founded The New World Chocolate Society as a broader platform for consumer education. more about this expert »

in the kitchenBasics
How to taste and describe chocolate
  • Tasting and describing chocolate is not very different from describing a wine.
  • When describing chocolate you are not only talking about how it tastes but also the texture of how it melts in your mouth.
  • Chocolate bars can have all kinds of flavors from fruits to nuts to wood.
  • A great chocolate is going to engage all of your senses. It will look good, smell good, taste good and even sound nice when you break off a piece.
  • The higher quality of chocolate, the less you need to eat to feel satisfied.
  • Sometimes chocolate is simply the delivery vehicle for flavor.
  • White chocolate is a much more mild form and usually the other flavors predominate.
How to evaluate a piece of chocolate:
  1. Look at the chocolate to see if it has a nice sheen.
  2. Break off a piece to see if it snaps well and breaks easily.
  3. Then determine what it smells like. Does it smell sweet, are there hints if vanilla, is there a big chocolate smell to it?
  4. Next - tasting the chocolate. Put it in your mouth and chew it a couple of times to start the melting process.
  5. Then let it melt on the top of your tongue.
  6. When eating a chocolate bon bon and determining the flavor characteristics you want to eat it in two bites.
Transcript LISA:  Hi I’m Lisa Birnbach for howdini.com. You or I might bite into a piece of chocolate and say something like, wow yummy. But chocolate connoisseurs have their own way of tasting and describing chocolate. If you want to upgrade from chocoholic to connoisseur listen up to chocolate expert Clay Gordon, whose new book is called discover chocolate. Is there another language we should be using instead of yummy?

CLAY:  No, yummy works really, really well as a matter of fact, but the language of talking about chocolate is very similar to the language of wine. It turns out that a plain bar of chocolate can have fruit flavors in it or have nut flavors in it. It could have tobacco flavors, wood and smoke and all these kinds of flavors in it. So the difference between drinking wine and tasting wine, when you taste it you slow down and you catalogue all the sense impressions. The same thing is true for the chocolate, what does it look like? You pick it up and there is a really nice sheen-

LISA:  It’s really pretty.

CLAY:  It’s a beautiful, beautiful bar of chocolate. That’s actually a good indication of quality, the chocolateer actually done a good job of manufacturing that bar. And then what you want to do is snap it; you know does it smell, does it snap well? And then you want to break it up again, what does it smell like? What you want to do is a basic catalogue, so what does it smell like? Right, does it smell sweet; do you smell a lot of vanilla? Is there a big chocolate smell to it?

LISA:  It’s very chocolate. This chocolate smells like chocolate.

CLAY:  Very, very earthy, very earthy chocolate. A strong chocolate flavor. And then, what you want to do is find the answer to the question, do you chew?

LISA:  I’m going to let it-

CLAY:  Or do you let it melt?

LISA:  Melt.

CLAY:  And the answer is you usually do both because you want to get the textural sensation of chewing. So you chew it a couple of times-

LISA:  Can I?

CLAY:  Of course, put it in your mouth; chew a couple of times, right to start the melting process. And then you get the chocolate of the top of your tongue and let it melt. It’s a very rich, very, very strong earthy chocolate flavor. You may notice there is a little drying sensation

LISA:  Yeah

CLAY:  That’s in wine what we would call constringency, but one of the things you’ll notice here is that there is not pasty texture in your mouth. The cocoa cocoa butter is melted and it clears out of the mouth very, very cleanly. And it turns out the higher the quality of the chocolate; the less you need to eat to feel satisfied.

LISA:  Thank you so much.

CLAY:  It’s been my pleasure.

LISA:  For howdini.com I’m Lisa Birnbach.

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