I love good food, and prior to visiting a new city, I spend hours (nay, days) online in a attempt to find the most delectable foods that new locale has to offer (to the point of selecting which dishes husband will order so that I can try both his dish and mine). At the same time, I love not-so-good food--you know, the kind five-year olds rave about. Pizza, french fries, grilled cheese...goldfish crackers. I like to think the combination of foodie and five-year old makes me a pretty middling chocolate taster. So take my review as you wish...
The white chocolate raspberry star was first of all, beautiful to look at. The white chocolate was creamy and smooth, and the raspberry gave it the extra kick of flavor that I always feel like white chocolate is missing. The dark with cherries and chili was an experience as you don't expect the flavors to mix well. I wasn't head over heels in love with it (despite chocolov providing a love poem on every wrapper) but I thought it was a good flavor experience that a chocolate party should not be without. My Belgian dark and crystallized ginger was really quite good in my opinion as I'm fond of mild dark chocolate. In addition to the milder dark, you have the ginger to add a sweet/tangy flavor that is unexpected. Finally my dark ganache bliss was very strong tasting, but still retained some sweetness with the bitter. I like mild dark chocolate so the 72% was getting a little close to my veto zone. If you don't like dark chocolate at all, I doubt it will rank highly on your list.
Now for the tutorial you've all been waiting for. How to eat chocolate. If your guests have had little exposure to dark chocolate, your tasting should begin with the lowest cacao content samples. Work up the scale from white chocolate ending with a product with content of 85% or less. For guests familiar with dark chocolate, start with a higher cacao content and move your way down the spectrum, finishing with the smallest cacao content (white).
Let guests start with a clean palate. Human taste buds adapt to flavors very quickly. If you eat something sweet before eating chocolate, your taste buds become insensitive to sugary flavors so they won't respond as much to the sugar in the chocolate. The result is that the chocolate will taste more bitter. Equally so, avoid eating anything bitter before chocolate. Your taste buds will overload on the earlier bitter experience and the chocolate may taste too sweet or have a weak overall flavor. The best thing to do is to drink something neutral, like hot water, or room temp water, shortly before eating chocolate to clean you palate of any lingering flavors.
Next, check appearance and smell. Guests should examine the color of the chocolate, but don't let it be your sole guide; darkness varies by the type of beans used and how they're processed. Chocolate should be shiny, but don't be put off it there is a slight grayish cast. It's called "bloom" and means that the chocolate has experienced temperature fluctuations. Any effect it has on the taste and texture is minor. Smell the chocolate--try to sense the flavors in it before you even put it in your mouth.
Now, (we thought it'd never come!), eat the chocolate...slowly! Let the first bite melt in your mouth. Take small bites and roll each bit around your mouth. This will allow the maximum amount of flavor to be taken up by the palate. To really taste the base and primary flavor notes, wait 10-20 seconds after you place a piece of chocolate into your mouth. Let the chocolate melt slowly by pushing it gently against the roof of your mouth (most chocolate tasters warm their chocolate up by rubbing the wrapper before eating it). This releases the top flavors, or primary notes in chocolate. To release the secondary flavors, expand the chocolate's surface area by chewing five to ten times. Because it's a solid, chocolate takes longer to travel into taste buds. If it's chewed and quickly swallowed most of the flavor will be missed. Take your time, hold chocolate in the mouth and let it melt slowly.
While eating, notice the texture of the chocolate. There should be absolutely no noticeable "grain" on the tongue when you are chocolate tasting. Feel how thick or creamy the chocolate feels in your mouth. If there are other ingredients such as nuts, rice, fruit, cream, caramel, mint paste, really concentrate on those textures, and how they compliment the creamy chocolate texture. Also notice the sweetness or bitterness, and hints of flavor, or "notes." Nice chocolates denote the percentage of cocoa and cocoa butter (or as they often label it, cacao) in the bar. The higher the number, the less sweet and the more bitter and intense the chocolate.
Finally, wait for the aftertaste. It should be a strong, long lasting flavor that comes a few moments after the chocolate is gone from your mouth. If you get onto the next bite before enjoying the aroma and flavor of an aftertaste, you’ll never experience it. With your mouth closed, breathe in and out through your nose a few times after the bite is gone, and focus on what you’re smelling, tasting and feeling. Yum.
Hope you've enjoyed our chocolate tasting party series, Sisteroos! Let us know when you host your own!