Chocolate tasting is a skill anyone can learn with some practice and diligence. In the beginning it is easiest to start by tasting several different chocolates of the same cocoa percentage at the same time. You may be surprised how much difference there is in the tastes between 3 dark chocolate bars you have eaten before, never noticing any nuances. Even if you prefer only dark choccolate as I do, you will be surprised how tasty a good quality milk chocolate can be. For the purposes of tasting, it is best not to pair the chocolate with anything else such as wine or coffee when you are trying to learn to identify flavors. It is best to wait a few hours after eating so that your taste buds are untainted and ready to detect the subtle flavors of the chocolate. It is best to create a situation where you will be comfortable and without distractions such as music, TV or other people.
If you are serious about tasting, it is a good idea to keep a journal of your tasting experiences. Become a free registered user of our site, and you will have access to our Tasting Guidelines for Bars or Bonbons to use while tasting. Also available for your use is our Chocolate Tasting Vocabulary Sheet, which provides lists of common flavors found in chocolates as well as descriptive words used to identify some of the other dimensions of chocolate. You should feel free to add your own flavors to the lists as you discover them.
Makers often provide tasting notes with their chocolates, which can help you recognize tastes that you will encounter when sampling their bars. When you are first learning, using maker notes is an excellent way to improve your ability to recognize the various flavors. There is no right or wrong when it comes to what you taste in the chocolate. Each person’s taste buds are different and may identify different flavors. Clear your mind and let your taste buds be your guide.
The small tasting squares are ideal for comparing different chocolates. One or two squares of each type should be enough for a tasting session. The chocolates should be at a cool room temperature. If they are too cold, the flavor will be distorted, and if they are too warm, the texture can be affected. Sit down with the different chocolates you intend to taste and a glass of cool water to drink in between tastings to clear your palette.
Examine the first piece of chocolate...how does it look? Is it shiny with a nice gloss or dull with some sugar-bloom? Are there bubbles or imperfections on the surface or is it smooth and even? Is it a deep mahogany, medium coffee brown or a light cinnamon color? These traits are a measure of the quality of the chocolate maker’s skill. Next, smell the chocolate. Do you smell vanilla or floral or maybe coffee? Many of the flavors you will experience with your tongue can also be present in the aroma. Finally, bite off a small piece, chew it up a bit to break it into small chunks in your mouth, then let the chunks melt on your tongue. Notice what parts of your tongue react to the chocolate. Sit quietly and observe...you will begin to notice different flavors present themselves. Some chocolates have a very consistent flavor from bite to swallow, most will have an upfront flavor that changes into another and then mabye finishes with yet another flavor. Does the flavor linger on your tongue or does it fade away quickly? You should also notice the texture of the chocolate as it melts. Is it grainy or smooth, thick or thin? Does it have a waxy or greasy feeling in your mouth or does it melt cleanly?
You may need to repeat the process with the same chocolate to identify the flavors and texture, before moving on to the next bar. Over time your taste buds will become more sensitive and you will discover more and more nuances to the flavors if you are tasting quality chocolate. The journey of a Chocoloissuer is one of discovery and enjoyment as you discover new traits in an already beloved food. Happy tasting!