Throughout the year, Lake Champlain Chocolates offers a myriad of chocolate tastings; an attempt to share our passion for chocolate with all of our fans. We offer chocolate tastings every Friday from 10 to 2 on the hour at our Pine Street location. And on occasion host special tasting events such as next Saturday 6/27.
I thought I’d take a few moments to share with you some of our tasting guidelines. For those of you outside of the Vermont area or for those who just can’t make it to a tasting, these instructions should help you conduct a chocolate tasting of your own. A good place to start would be with our Chocolate Journeys which contains 10 chocolate squares ranging from 34% milk chocolate to 80% dark. Start with the milk chocolate and slowly work your way up, savoring each bite.
- Appearance: Study the look and color of the chocolate. If tempered, it should have a smooth, high sheen look. If grey/white, then the chocolate has bloomed – the fats or sugars have migrated to the surface of the chocolate leaving a whiteish residue. This is due to a change in humidity or temperature.
Break: properly tempered chocolate should have a good, clean snap.
- Aroma: Smell the broken piece. Identify the fragrances. Milk chocolate may have a milky, vanilla smell. Remember, that you cannot smell “sweet.” Dark chocolate may have more of a chocolate aroma. Unfermented beans smell like burnt rubber. Beans stored in humid areas can smell like grass or burlap. Beans dried over wood fires smell smoky.
Texture: How does the chocolate feel in your mouth? Quick melt or slow melt? Smooth or chalky?
Taste: What different “notes” do you taste in the different stages (Beginning, Middle, and Finish)?
Evaluate: What did you like or dislike about the product?
Four Basic Tastes:
Sweet: at the tip of your tongue
Sour: along the front sides of your tongue
Salt: along the back sides of your tongue
Bitter: at the back of the tongue
Sweet, sour, salt, and bitter can not be smelled.
Usually when someone says something smells sweet, they really mean vanilla.
Commonly used Terms in Chocolate Tasting:
- Brown fruit (raisings/prunes/dried cherries)
- Nutty/buttery (macadamia nuts)
- Lactic sour (sour cream/cream cheese)
- Caramel/caramelized/burnt/astringent (unripe fruit)
Difference in Chocolates:
Chocolate melts at body temperature, at the moment you put it in your moth.
Compound coatings do not melt at body temperature and lack high cocoa butter content.
Desirable Qualities in a Chocolate:
- Quick flavor release (vs. slow)
- Quick melt
- Well blended, even notes
- Aftertaste that dissipates after about a minute
- Bitter is not necessarily a negative attribute in a chocolate, especially in dark chocolate. It can be positive when talking about coffee, tea, fruits, and arugula.
- Sour can also be positive (tart apples, ginger, lemon)
Let us know how your chocolate tasting goes. Which one was your favorite?