When you’re talking about wine or coffee, aficionados tend to know their stuff: the vineyard or coffee plantation, the flavor notes, the aromas and the proper pairings. So, what about cacao beans?
Believe it or not, there’s actually much more to chocolate than just white, milk or dark. Flavor profiles of artisanal chocolates can range anywhere from balsamic to fruity to floral. The more you understand about the different associations that go into chocolate tasting, the more enjoyment you can get out of the chocolate.
This infographic was created by Richart, a personalized chocolate gifts company
The History of the Cacao Beans
As with coffee beans and grapes, one factor that impacts chocolate’s flavor is sourcing: Where were the cacao beans grown? What was the climate of that area, and how does the environment affect certain tastes?
Likewise, the processing of cacao changes its aroma compounds and texture. How were the beans harvested and treated? What roasting method was used? How were they prepared and turned into bars? All of these factors play a role in the chocolate’s final taste. Part of tasting is learning how each of these components impacts the bar.
Popular chocolate pairings include fruit, spices, coffee, milk, nuts and other ingredients. These demonstrate the multitude of ways there are to intentionally boost your tasting experience. Having cacao nibs or cinnamon added to a bar can completely alter the way its flavors stand out, for example. Likewise, eating chocolate with strategically chosen foods or drinks can accentuate the taste and enhance your enjoyment.
How to Begin the Tasting Experience
If you’re new to the world of chocolate tasting, your best bet is to pick a favorite chocolate — even if it’s one from the grocery store — and use it as a launchpad for your comparisons. Start by tasting your usual chocolate on its own: Acknowledge its flavors, texture and the way it feels in your mouth. Pay attention to its aroma and how it snaps when you break off a piece. Then, try a different bar, comparing and contrasting to mark what’s unique in each one. The more you pay attention, the more you can learn to appreciate the differences among bars.
Here are more ideas for tasting comparisons:
- Use different types of chocolate, such as dark and light.
- Compare single-origin chocolates with one another, seeing how sourcing can impact the results.
- Consider a bar with minimal ingredients compared to a bar with added cocoa butter.
- Try two dark bars made with beans from different countries or two milk chocolates with different ingredients added to the blend.
Repeatedly sampling and noting the differences is key to learning more about the various chocolate possibilities and what each one provides.
Whether you’re eating chocolate at home or you’re cooking with chocolate at a restaurant, learning more about the different notes and aromas available can make a major difference in how you enjoy the complex world of chocolate. To learn more about the many flavor profiles you can explore, take a look at the accompanying resource. It includes a breakdown of seven specific taste families, as well a wheel that organizes different possibilities by group.
Author bio: Gautier Richart is a third-generation chocolatier at RICHART. In line with his father and grandfather, he has a passion for gourmet chocolate and more generally for the art of tasting.