How to taste chocolate

This month was our first meeting back at our original venue since the COVID-19 pandemic! It was so amazing to feel back to normal and see everyone together again.

Our subject this month was chocolate, we learned all about craft chocolate, how to taste chocolate and some of the history too. We used the tasting kits from Cocoa Runners – everyone had 4 different craft chocolates to taste and those joining us over Zoom had three to taste.

The chocolate we are accustomed to today is often flavoured with orange, caramel, or any other flavour. But chocolate actually has a strong flavour of its own and doesn’t need to be flavoured at all, especially if it is not over processed.

Craft chocolate makers source cocoa beans directly from a farmer and process the beans in a way that keeps the original flavour of the bean. Like wine tasting, chocolate tasting follows similar steps and has a whole vocabulary to help describe the experience.

It takes time for chocolate to melt and release flavour, by holding the chocolate on our tongue and letting it melt, not chewing, we can release feel the texture and the upfront flavours. Generally we are not good at describing flavour, we also have limit in our brain where we can only process 3-4 flavours at once. We need to give our brain time to appreciate the flavour and textures.

The chocolate tasting wave

Credit: Cocoa Runners Tasting Wave

STEP 1: Melt & Texture

Take a small bite, don’t chew, let it melt on your tongue. How does it feel?

Creamy, silky, Waxy, Oily, Smoother, Sandy, Brittle? These are all words that could describe the texture of craft chocolate.

STEP 2: Taste & Flavour

Now the chocolate is melting the flavours are unlocked. Breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose to ensure your sense of taste and smell are working together. This will tell you the flavour of the chocolate.

Sweet, Sour, Metallic, Bitter, Spicy, Salty, Citrus, Berry, Nutty, Coffee, Sherbert? These are all words that could describe the natural flavour of craft chocolate (with no flavours added!)

STEP 3: Aftertaste

Once you are ready to swallow, what is ther aftertaste in your mouth?

Astringent, Cheesy, Nutty, Tobacco, Menthol, Leathery, Honey, Meaty? These are all words to describe the flavours you might experience after eating the craft chocolate.

Finally, rank the chocolate from Amazing – Very Good – Good – OK – Not For Me to decide whether or not to try it again! Download the Cocoa Runner’s tasting wave printable to compare lots of different craft chocolate bars.

Farming

As well as learning how to taste chocolate we also learned about how chocolate is currently grown; mainly by small family farms whose prices are controlled by the larger companies who buy their beans, and the low price that chocolate is sold at.

Most chocolate farmers live well below the poverty line and unfortunately slave and child labour is rife at many cocoa bean farms. Farmers are forced to grow as many trees as possible to meet demand which can be very damaging to the environment and often results in rainforest being cut down to make way for more farm land.

Craft chocolate revolution

In order to combat these problems we can buy craft chocolate from makers who are working directly with cocoa bean farmers, this helps to ensure they are paid appropriately. Look out on your craft chocolate bar for the exact location where the cocoa is grown (right down to the farm’s name) and for a small list of ingredients – definitely no emulsifiers or E numbers!

Locally you can buy craft chocolate from Groceries & Beer in Sale who stock Ombar and Willie’s Cacao, or online you can buy from Cocoa Runners who also do a subscription box for you to try different varieties every month.

Mindful alternatives

If you’ve tried craft chocolate and you just can’t find something you like, Tony’s Chocolony are a popular brand who work hard to combat slave and child labour in chocolate manufacturing. They even open their supply chain so other companies can follow their lead. However, they still process their cocoa to create a uniform flavour and then add flavourings to each bar, rather than letting the natural flavour of the cocoa beans shine through. Tony’s Chocolony is sold in many local supermarkets.

Finally, Hotel Chocolat have a single origin range which promise the bar is made from beans only sourced from one region and is unblended to ensure the true flavour of the bean is coming through. Our nearest shop is in the Trafford Centre or you can buy online.

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