Paris – Like fine wine, exceptional chocolate deserves to be tasted with great care and attention to the details:
Colour, aroma, length on the palate… Cacao creations can be even more delectable when a few basic guidelines are followed. As the UK gears up for “Chocolate Week” starting October 17, and the 20th edition of the Salon du Chocolat ― the world’s biggest chocolate fair ― prepares to open in Paris later this month, we get a five-step introduction to chocolate tasting from Victoire Finaz, an expert chocolate taster and chocolatier.
1. Taste with your eyes
Like the colour of a fine wine, the shade of a chocolate square can be telling. “The cacao bean is purple to begin with. During the harvesting process, and then the roasting process which toasts it, the bean changes colour. In the chocolate stage, it should have a mahogany colour, which is to say brown with a reddish tint. This is a criterion of quality,” says Victoire Finaz.
2. Choose the right setting
Fine chocolate should be savoured in the right conditions, which means a quiet location with a temperature of around 21°C/70°F. The morning is the best time to partake in serious chocolate tasting, and it is preferable to taste on an empty stomach, or even when slightly hungry, after avoiding eating for at least two hours. Of course, since eating chocolate has been shown to trigger the release of endorphins, any tasting experience has the potential to be ideal if it has an emotional component.
3. Seek a fruity aroma
“Chocolate should not smell too much like sugar, or even like vanilla. It’s a bad sign. On the contrary, it should give off fruity notes,” explains the chocolate expert. One can also evaluate whether the aromas are subtle or powerful.
4. Find what you like
“You have to find what you like, and decide what is the right balance between sweet and chocolate tastes,” concludes Finaz. It is also important to pay attention to notes that are astringent, acidic and “too toasted” to fully evaluate a given chocolate. “It can happen that the chocolate is not in the best shape and has a grainy texture,” warns the expert. For those interested in learning how to evaluate the different aromas, Finaz recommends choosing pure chocolate bars rather than truffles or other chocolate candies. She also advises against buying the chocolate at the supermarket for an optimal tasting experience.
5. Let it linger on the palate
A strong and persistent flavour that remains on the palate after the chocolate is gone is one sign of character and quality.