What makes a good chocolate good, is never as simple as black and white. True chocolate enthusiasts know that artisan chocolate is more than just a snack, it is a complete sensory experience, and the perfect match for fine beverages like wine, coffee and tea. Take your love for chocolate to the next level and learn to appreciate its complexity through the following chocolate tasting and pairing tips.
Your nose can sense over a thousand different flavours. Before taking a bite, break a piece off the bar and give it a good sniff. The strongest aroma can be smelled from the edge that’s just been cut. Next, rub the chocolate between your fingers to release more aromas. As you take a deep breath in, try to notice the aromatic notes, complexity and intensity of the chocolate. Smelling the chocolate will help prepare your taste buds for the flavours you’re about to taste.
There are two ways of tasting a chocolate, by letting it melt slowly in your mouth or chewing it. Both methods create different flavours and should be experienced in the right sequence. First, take a small piece and let it melt slowly in the mouth, gently work the chocolate around your mouth and cover as much palate as possible. As it dissolves, different flavours will emerge. Is it fruity, spicy or earthy? Next, place another piece in your mouth and chew, you’ll experience a quicker release of flavours, how does it differ from it melted slowly? Explore the mouthfeel and the textures. Does it feel smooth and creamy, dry and powdery or greasy and slimy?
Sequence and Palate Cleanser
If you are tasting different chocolates in one sitting, the sequence is a crucial factor. Start with the highest percentage of cocoa and work your way down to the lower cocoa percentage. If there are flavoured bars involved, start with the plain bars first and save the strongest flavours for last. It’s also very important to reset in between chocolate bars. Drink water or eat plain crackers to neutralize your palate, and smell your own body perfume to neutralize the nose. =
Do keep in mind that tasting chocolate is completely subjective and there is no right or wrong, but by knowing and understanding the flavours of your chocolate, you’ll get you know which types you like better and appreciate a bar even more. Once you have mastered the art of tasting chocolate, why not take it up a notch and learn how to pair chocolate with wine, coffee or tea? Read on for some tips on chocolate pairing.
Chocolate and Wine
As a simple rule of thumb, you can pair chocolates and wines that have a similar weight. Lighter chocolates go nicely with lighter-bodied wines, while bold-flavoured bars pair well with fuller-bodied wines. Start from light chocolate and wine and work your way up to the richer chocolate and wine. You can also try to find the right balance by choosing wine that is softer and milder than the chocolate you’re pairing with. Pairing a chocolate with slightly sweeter, fruity wine is also a safe bet as it balances out the bitterness of the cocoa.
Chocolate and Coffee
Both coffee and chocolate boast their own complex and unique flavours, but when paired properly it can create a mindblowing flavour combinations. Chocolates with medium cocoa content (50-70%) pairs well with earthy, spicy coffee, while lighter and sweeter chocolate (less than 50% cocoa) is best to combine with coffee that has more delicate fruit and floral notes as the flavours complement rather than overpower each other. Similar to chocolate and wine pairing, dark chocolates with more than 70% cocoa content work well with stronger-flavoured brews like dark roasts.
Chocolate and Tea
Not many things in life are as heartwarming as a comforting cup of tea paired with a fine chocolate. Dark, bold-flavoured chocolates are best paired with strong, full-bodied teas like English breakfast as the earthy notes of this kind of tea go well with the richness of the cocoa. Chocolate with 70% cocoa percentage is also perfect for teas with citrus taste like earl grey as it brings out the sweet fruit and honey flavours of the tea, while milk chocolate and bars with lower cocoa content goes well with lighter teas like rooibos or camomile.
The more you try out different combinations of chocolate and wine, tea or coffee, the more you will know which combination works best. So don’t be afraid to experiment and play around to figure out your own personal preferences when it comes to chocolate tasting and pairing.