We are in the middle of the boom in craft and bean-to-bar chocolate making. That is why chocolate tasting events become more and more popular, especially in corporate world. You can easily find plenty of books about tasting chocolate, online guides and even certification programs similar to wine sommelier tests to educate those who wants to get fashionable chocolier title on art of tasting chocolate.
Some serious chocolate aficionados and organizers of chocolate tasting events for companies insist on importance of tasting chocolate in sterile environment close to laboratory one in order to avoid any distracting scents and even noise. Sounds like another boring and closed sect for chosen ones, not like fun chocolate party for your company’s team. Our opinion is that any person, even kids, can organize chocolate party and learn together with their guests how to taste chocolate like a real connoisseur. The only thing your need is a collection of chocolate bars from the best award-winning chocolate makers from around the world. And this is when Hello Chocolate can be really helpful.
Chocolate tasting corporate parties are growing in their popularity around the world. In the US this industry is striving especially in the areas with high density of pleasure-hunting foodies like the Bay area. One of the greatest examples is The Chocolate Garage from Palo Alto.
But here we would like to bring to your attention brief guide to tasting fine and craft chocolate with tips on pairing it with alcohol and non-alcohol beverages. Of cause we can disappoint some wine lovers, but in most of the cases combination of red wine and chocolate sucks. Chocolate’s sweetness and wine’s tannins creates unforgettably uncomfortable feeling of over-acidity. As an alternative we prefer to pair it with stouts, porto, whiskeys, low-acidic coffee or matcha tea. Doing so we find that in case of real (especially dark) chocolate we need something with “sweeter” level. In this case it highlights the deepness of chocolate’s flavours greatly.
Organizing our corporate chocolate tasting events we are following 7 simple steps.
Step 1: Reading First
Our first destination is an ingredients list. Our chocolate for tasting contains not least than 60% of cocoa for dark chocolate and not less than 30% for milky one. We try to avoid other ingredients beside cocoa butter, sugar and, in some rare cases, natural vanilla. Although when we want to present how other products like dried fruits work with chocolate we can include some flavoured chocolates in your tasting list using them as a final chocolate “dessert”.
Step 2: Preparing and organizing your chocolate.
It is one of the most boring but very necessary procedures. We break our chocolate into equal pieces. It is not an easy task for some of the thick chocolate bars. Optimal size is the size of an almond. Sharp knife can help to achieve tidy, square edges if we cut chocolate with steady, descending move. We are trying to be rapid with your cut. If we ponder, the chocolate will crash into small pieces. Usually we make enough pieces for 2-3 rounds of tasting.
We start our chocolate events with bitter dark chocolate slowly moving toward sweeter bars. So we serve dark chocolate first. Only after we explored the dark side of real chocolate we move to milky and white. However we move from lower percentage to the highest within dark chocolate range.
We already mentioned that we keep our flavoured chocolate till the end. In this range we present mild flavours like fruits or herbs first moving from there to stronger tastes of coffee or chilly.
Fun part of chocolate tasting event for corporate teams is to taste mass market chocolate at the beginning and at the end of you chocolate tasting session. It is always quite entertaining to see how people change their opinion about mass-market chocolate forever. Although we are trying not to be very harsh and offer “quality” (usually famous Swiss mass market brand) chocolate instead of Cadbury. Otherwise the difference can cause an incurable trauma in some of your team mates.
Step 3. Cleanse, taste and cleanse again.
Before the chocolate tasting session we advise employees to wash their mouth with slightly warm water. We are not using iced water as it “freezes” your taste sensitivity. Some experts advise to use bread to neutralize your taste senses but we usually stick to water or weak and not very hot tea. We also advise to clean your mouth after each chocolate variety.
Step 4. Make your chocolate look good (applies to any kind of food).
We place our chocolate on something contrast to enjoy the depth of its color. Experienced chocolate lovers can tell a lot about piece of chocolate even before tasting or smelling it. Each separate piece of chocolate has unique shade of brown. Opposite to gray, there are much more than 50 shades of brown. The color of chocolate tells a lot about cacao beans used and roasting method.
For example, dark brown of black color can tell about high roast similar to coffee roasting. It is often used to hide low quality beans used in the process. Burgundy light brown is very common for middle roast and trinitario cacao beans (more about different types of cacao beans can be found in our previous blog post). Pale brown is a great sign of royal criollo or highly prized porcelana cacao beans usage.
Good chocolate should be shiny, free of bubbles or other abnormal scratches and look smooth. Matte surface is a sign of poor moulding. Gray or yellowish color on top is caused by cocoa butter moving to the surface. There are two reasons for this: 1) difference in temperature which means that chocolate was moved from cold to hot environment several times; 2) it is quite old and it is time for it to die peacefully (best option is to use it for baking).
Step 5. Inhale.
The aroma of any food is responsible for 90% of its taste. Our tasting buds recognize only five flavours - sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness and umami. So our smell senses are main instruments of fine food appreciation. They give us access to thousand of distinct compounds.
To smell the chocolate fully we advise to hold you piece of chocolate between you thumb and index finger and let it melt slightly. Then we smell it for half a minute to get used to all the aromas presented in our bar.
During our corporate chocolate tasting events we are using flashcards with a brief encyclopedia of scents that helps to identify and detect the basic categories.
Step 6. Break it bad.
Place you piece of chocolate between your front teeth and break it in half. If you hear well-identified sound of clicking that you chocolate is well tempered. Dark chocolate is snappier that milk.
Step 7. Close your eyes and melt it.
Let your chocolate rest on you tongue and let it slowly melt. Don’t be in a hurry. Let cocoa batter to be absorbed properly. When cocoa fat doesn’t melt properly the falvour delivery period is very short and ends fast.
Try to identify chocolate texture while melting it. Fine chocolate is smooth with an exception of some raw and intentionally grainy chocolate. Taste length should be long enough and vanish with clear finish.
The flavours usually appear slowly, layer by layer. Sometimes chocolate that suppose to be earthy at first can burst with surprising flavours of citrus or tobacco.
Interestingly, if you eat mass-market chocolate nothing of above said matters. The taste and aroma will be the same in both cases of slow and fast chocolate eating. But if you buy a bar of fine bean-to-bar chocolate you should be very suspicious if you can’t tell difference.
Anyway, if you want to have well-guided chocolate event with exceptional collection of world’s best bean-to-bar chocolate contact Hello Chocolate's team and we, like magical fairies, will fill the room with fantastic and unforgettable experience of appreciating good pieace of bean-to-bar chocolate.
To organize your perfect corporate chocolate tasting event send us a request on firstname.lastname@example.org