Chocolate is a fine gourmet food. It is also a crappy, junk food devoid of all meaning and nutrition. Chocolate is a lot of things. But to understand the difference between the good stuff and the bad stuff, it is important to know the difference between eating chocolate and tasting it.
You see, when you taste chocolate, mainly you taste the cacao. The main ingredient in chocolate. You also taste the cocoa butter, which comes from cacao. Lastly, sugar. Mostly refined white sugar. That, is in 75% of all food. More on the dangers of sugar in another article, but here is a link for quick reference.
What happens when you taste all of those above ingredients together is known as tasting chocolate. Conversely, when you eat chocolate, the mindfulness or awareness of ingredients never comes to pass. There is no thoughtfulness or presence required to put chocolate between your teeth, bite it and swallow it. Tasting chocolate requires mindfulness. But there is nothing wrong with consuming chocolate mindlessly. Its again the sugar and other ingredients that causes problems.
As far as my research shows, cacao has no known side effects. That means yes, you can eat and taste your way through as much cacao as you could ever want. However, when the sugar starts flowing, so does diabetes, cravings, obesity and other sugar related diseases. Now, when the cacao flows, so do the tastes and sensations. Cacao has over 1,200 chemical compounds in it making it the most complex food on the planet! Please be aware, coffee has about 300 and wine has 600. All three are fermented foods. And, not to overwhelm you with information, I’d like to share that cacao stands out among the those three foods because chocolate sommeliers and connoisseurs actually have a bigger job to do. There are simply more flavors to decode and decipher. Eventually, tasting cacao will be elevated that of wine and coffee, but it will take twice as long since it has twice as many flavors as wine. It might take twice as many people too because unlike wine and coffee, cacao is non-habit forming and non-addictive.
That is the purpose for this article. Let’s speed up the detection of those 1,200 flavors clearly with a quick learn on tasting vs. eating chocolate. It is the first thing any chocolate sommelier needs to understand before, consuming chocolate — how to taste chocolate, not eat it.
Its basic. Anyone can do it. Just. Let it, melt. Let it dissolve. Don’t chew. If you swallow chocolate then you have not let it dissolve and melt all the way. That means you must have eaten it. What you want to experience is flavor evolution. It sounds more complicated then it is.
Here is the practice. Start with a small piece, small enough that melting will happen under 60 seconds. About half an inch square.
Great, you doing it. Just keep your teeth off of it. The temperature of your body will make it melt on its own. There is wisdom here because heat brings out flavors. So what happens here is that as the temperature goes up in your mouth, the flavors will develop on your tongue and in your nose. You will experience what is known as flavor evolution. Flavor is actually 80% smell so you need the chocolate or cacao to be warm in your mouth to taste it. This means the opposite is true too. Cold temperatures kill flavor. Note; don’t freeze or refrigerate your chocolate.
Now spread the melting chocolate all over your tongue if it has not completely melted yet. If it has, good job, you are on your way. If you need another piece, get one. If you have not started yet, grab a piece now, about half inch by half an inch and place it on your tongue to melt. Spread it around as I mentioned because your tongue has tastebuds, which taste differently, on different parts of your tongue. Spread the love. Let the chocolate tastes proliferate all areas of your tongue. Chocolate tasters will spread the chocolate everywhere in their mouth because aeration of the chocolate allows flavor to develop or evolve further. Now, don’t rule out whats going on in your nose. As the heat melts the chocolate, the flavors rise (heat rises) right into your nose. Smell them. They are great. They are 80% of the experience.
None of the above would happen, you realize, if you chewed and ate chocolate. Don’t worry, after you taste it you can chew and eat as much as you want at any pace. The best part is, because the aeration of the chocolate happens at a seperate pace when chewed, there are actually diffferent flavors to be tasted. Not a lot, but underdeveloped flavors will be there because there won’t be enough heat when chewed and swallowed.
Underdeveloped flavor is not what you are looking for. To thoroughly understand a cacao, letting the flavor develop over time is key. Also heat.
The last thing to do when tasting chocolate and cacao is to close your eyes. When you suppress some senses, others compensate and get stronger.
Give it your time, your attention and practice. Allow yourself to eat some chocolate and cacao too because you don’t want to get bored of the tasting process. Discover your path and practice with others. Clean your palette, your taste buds, with water. Its the most common tool of the trade but fresh or pickled ginger will work too.
When cleansing the palette, remember that everyone tastes things differently. Just like eyesights are different, music tastes are different, so are chocolate tastes. There are ways to calibrate everyones palettes but we will talk about that in another article.
For now, just be proud of yourself for learning a new skill. Great job! You are officially a pleasure hacker! Congratulations!
While its melting be sure to sniff and explore for nuanced flavors and aromas as that is the job!
If nothing comes to mind, trying peaking at a flavor wheel or flavor map of fine bean-to-bar chocolate. They will give lots of good ideas of what to look for. They will give lots of what others have found upon their chocolate tastings. Now you can glean ideas from the expert flavor map creators or discover flavors of your own. Both are acceptable behaviors for flavor-meisters.
There are official organizations and schools you can go to as well. They may teach you the same information, but remember, its practice that makes perfect. And, teaching others is the best ways to learn this info again. So please, share this, comment and follow Hawai’i Chocolate Review on Instagram to continue your chocolate tasting education.