7 Tips Towards Becoming a Pro Chocolate Taster
Posted by Jeff Stern on June 19, 2017
Developing your palate for chocolate takes time and practice. Some basic knowledge about chocolate can help you develop your palate, provide you some tools to better describe what you're tasting, and help you better understand what chocolates you like and why you like them.
Tasting Wheel, Blommer Chocolate, http://www.blommer.com/collateral/Flavor_wheel_cho...
Tasting wheels like the one shown above are often used to help describe chocolate flavors. We'll start with some of the basics here, and in future posts we'll talk more about other flavors.
All chocolates are not made equal, and below you'll find a few tips to get you started with tasting chocolate. It's easier to start out with the "off" flavors rather than the good ones. It's definitely easier to recognize the flavors you don't like first, and that's why we start with these. Below you will find a list of seven flavor categories you can use to start describing the defects you'll find in chocolate.
- Burnt or Charcoal Flavor: this happens because either the beans were dried over an open fire, or the beans were over roasted. You might also recognize it as a smoky flavor.
- Grassy: this flavor is present when beans are fermented in jute or burlap sacks.
- Highly Astringent: under-fermented beans cause this, and it’s more a sensation than a flavor. Ever drank a bold Cabernet Sauvignon? Or if you really want to experience it, try sucking on a teabag. It’s that dry sensation you get around the sides of your tongue.
- Bitter: it’s not unusual to experience mild bitterness in chocolate, but one of the signs of a good quality chocolate, starting with the beans and followed by proper processing, is low or total lack of bitterness, even in a dark (70% or higher) chocolate. If you really want to identify bitterness, try sucking on a dry uncoated aspirin.
- Acidic: some mild acidity is fine, sometimes even welcome in your chocolate. But a lot of acidity is not a good sign. This is due to under fermented beans being used in your chocolate.
- Meaty or Hammy Flavors: this is another defect due to over fermentation; the beans can actually begin to rot, leaving us with unpleasant notes.
- Musty or Mildewy Notes: these are due to beans not being properly dried, or being stored in an overly humid environment.
You don’t have to wax poetic about the shoe leather, turpentine, and raspberry flavor in the chocolate.
We’re not wine snobs, and we’re not chocolate snobs either. Just trying to understand some basic facts about chocolate tasting.
To get started with tasting and using a wheel like this, it's a good idea to pick up 3-5 bars of high quality, single origin chocolate. Bars like those from Dandelion, Millcreek Cacao, Dick Taylor, or Fruition Chocolate. We're not endorsing any of these bars here nor were we paid to mention them. There are many other makers out there so pick and choose if you have some favorites.
Next time, we’ll address some of the good stuff you want to look for. Meanwhile, enjoy your chocolate experiments.