I have been judging the Academy of Chocolate awards for the past couple of years, and I am still learning and still finding flavours and textures that surprise me. We all taste different flavours in differing strengths, and obviously all have our likes and dislikes too. There is no right or wrong way to enjoy your chocolate, but if you want to learn about flavour balance, texture and how to recognise a good chocolate, there are a few tips that may help you on your journey:
Never store your chocolate in the fridge (or next to a radiator!). Keep it dry and cool in an airtight container, and taste it at room temperature.
Use your eyes, ears and nose as well as your mouth!
Take a good look at the chocolate – does it have a smooth, blemish-free, shiny surface? If there are white patches it’s a sign that the chocolate has ‘bloomed’ – the fats or sugars, or both have risen to the surface (this can be through the making process or whilst in storage). This may make the chocolate gritty or greasy, so it may be better used for cooking, or melted into a hot chocolate drink.
Break a small piece in half and listen for a loud snap – the higher the cacao content the louder the snap!
Smell the broken pieces of chocolate – the aromas are linked to the flavour of the chocolate, so this will help you to indentify them before you taste.
Finally, place the chocolate in your mouth and let it melt on the tongue for a few seconds to warm and melt it. Slowly certain flavours will emerge – fruity blackcurrants, or spicy cinnamon, or even savoury notes may be found. Again, there is no right or wrong answer, it’s a very personal experience.
If you are tasting more than one chocolate make sure to cleanse your palate in between, either with a glass of water or some plain crackers.
Most of all – enjoy eating your chocolate!