Although we do not spit out the chocolate, as the wine buffs do, neither do we eat it. A small piece of the chocolate should be placed on the tongue and allowed to melt of its own accord. I suggest that three or four bars are tried side by side, with a glass of water to sip between samples.
Professional chocolate tasters often use a vocabulary that is borrowed from wine tasters. ‘Notes’, or characteristics, are looked for, and expressed in comparisons with, for example, flower blossoms, citrus and red berry fruits, newly mown hay and green tea. With a little practice we all develop a method of tasting that works for us, and learn to recognize the different characteristics of the chocolates we taste. One thing that all fine chocolate has in common, like great wines, is a very long ‘finish’.
We need to learn to be discriminating about chocolate quality. In the last hundred years the chocolate industry has been revolutionized, and as with all revolutions, much care needs to be taken to ensure that corruption does not set in. The more expertise we have, the more influence we can wield. As consumers we have the right to demand higher standards from the manufacturers, and they would be foolish not to take note.
There is now a growing trend in the food industry as a whole to increase product awareness, and improve the quality of merchandise. The public is demanding more information about exact ingredients and additives, and is moving towards a better position from which to make an informed choice. There is still a tendency to sacrifice quality for price. In the final analysis, each person must decide whether to consume mass-produced chocolate, laden with additives and sugar, or to demand the finer and rarer cocoa bean varieties from which the finest chocolate is made.
© 1993 Chantal Coady. All rights reserved.