When tasting chocolate, there are a number of things to keep in mind to evaluate each aspect of the chocolate being tasted. Though everyone prefers certain types of chocolate at certain times, it is always possible to give a full evaluation of any chocolate. The wider our base of chocolate experience, the better able we are to choose the best chocolate for us at any given moment.
Here are a few things to consider each time you bite into chocolate:
Before you bite, take a moment to look at the chocolate, since appearance can say many things about it. Chocolate should be shiny and even its coloration. The surface of the chocolate should not show any whitish streaks, dots, cracks, or fog, as these aspects are indicative of “bloom” from bad storage conditions or incorrect handling.
Next, experience the aroma of the chocolate. Good chocolate should have a rich, chocolaty, flavorful smell and should not be at all burned, smoky, or scentless. The best chocolate will not give off any scent of chemicals or impure additives – if this is detectable, it is a good time to put the chocolate down and move on to the next sample. Flavored chocolate can have aromatic elements of the flavorings, but they should not overpower the most important element – the chocolate. When broken, the aroma of fresh chocolate will smell as it should – of chocolate.
The next step for testing is the break of the chocolate. This part is referred to as the “snap”. Chocolate should break clean and crisp, without crumbling or breaking into layers. Be certain the chocolate is at the correct temperature. Chocolate that is too cold will splinter, while chocolate that is to warm will warp and separate. Chocolate should never crumble or break into layers, as this is a sure sign that it is not good. Ideally, chocolate will break cleanly with an audible snap and a crisp break.
Now for the best part, taking your first bite! Break off a bit with your teeth and let it sit between your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Move it around and observe the effects. The chocolate should begin to melt immediately with an even texture, as chocolate melts at human body temperature. The feeling of the chocolate in your mouth, or “mouthfeel”, should be creamy, velvety, smooth, and soft, free of any grease, grit, grain, wax, or gum. Pay attention to the flavors, both subtle and strong. The best chocolates of all types will be well balanced, not too sweet and not too bitter. Any additives to the chocolate such as fruit, nuts, spices, and liquors should be present, but in no way overpowering. Chocolate should always be the main flavor. The flavor should be full and mellow with no artificial, burned, harsh, or flat overtones.
Aftertaste is the last quality to watch for when tasting chocolate. A good chocolate will not disappear immediately, but will leave subtle and pleasant sensations in the mouth. The aftertaste of chocolate should not be too strong, burned, chalky, or too short. When selecting chocolate before you purchase – look at the label. Chocolate with a high cocoa content can be a good indicator of a quality chocolate. Look for chocolate that contains cocoa butter and not other vegetable fats. Chocolate made with cocoa butter will have a smoother texture and a more chocolaty taste.