This is Part 4 of a 4 part blog post.
Tasting chocolate for pleasure is a journey of discovery, a most enjoyable way to explore your own palate and preferences. No two people taste flavors or even experience textures in the same way; you will be amazed at the different responses you will find among a group of tasters.
Flavor is the ultimate criterion for quality in chocolate. Because texture is so distracting some tasters focus on flavor first, before considering texture. Either way, flavor begins to fill your mouth from the moment the chocolate begins to melt on your tongue.
At first there is so much pleasure in tasting the chocolate, it may be difficult to focus on the specifics of flavor. As with aroma, your first perception may be simply described as “chocolaty” or even just “yummy”! As you begin to focus, notice several things:
- Does the flavor come on quickly or slowly?
- Does the flavor build and peak or remain constant?
- Does the flavor 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 flavor that lasts a long time in your mouth.
- Describing flavor is the most fun and most challenging aspect of chocolate tasting. Everyone gets better with practice.
Relate the flavors that you taste in chocolate to flavors, smells and experiences familiar to you, no matter how corny or off beat they may be, and whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. Don’t forget food memories. Chocolate flavor has been compared to strange things like “buttered toast,” “egg custard,” dirty leaves…You may describe the sweetness in terms of sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, caramel or some other sweet food memory.
Consider tartness, acidity, and bitterness as well. If these are detected, are they pleasing or displeasing to you? Do you taste vanilla? Does the chocolate taste nutty? What kind of nuts, and are they toasted nuts or raw? Do you taste fruit, and is it dried fruit or fresh fruit, citrus or other? Do you taste coffee?
Connoisseurs appreciate complexity in chocolate, rather than a single constant flavor. But even connoisseurs disagree about what they taste and what they like.
Professional tasters also appreciate balance and the overall intensity of the chocolate flavor. Deciding which chocolates taste “in perfect harmony or balance” or which “strike the perfect intensity” is up to the individual and is completely personal, and often develops with chocolate tasting experience.
Practice! Beginners may not taste or be able to describe as many flavors as seasoned tasters, but continued practice is both pleasurable and rewarding.