Buying a great batch of chocolate goes beyond picking the prettiest box or choosing from the milk, white or dark varieties. With characteristics such as the detailed flavour profiles and the cacao’s country of origin, no two chocolates are the same. Similar to coffee and wine: The more you learn, the more you’ll enjoy your chocolate tasting experience.
Cacao is typically grown throughout North and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, East Asia and Australasia. The terrain and climate are imperative to grow the finest beans that will roast properly and make for better chocolate. The cacao tree is able to yield four main varieties of beans: Criollo, Forastero, Trinitario and Nacional.
Before you purchase just any old chocolate bar, consider the texture. Though this may take some trial and error, remember that chocolate should be creamy, smooth and easily melted — not sticky, muddy, chalky or waxy. Aim for a chocolate that has a gradual flavour progression with delicate notes of fruit, spice or other flavours. The best recipes have a balanced amount of astringency, aroma and texture.
It may take time to find that perfect chocolate for your next cocktail party or celebratory soiree. The good news is that the best way to enhance the chocolate tasting experience is to do lots of sampling! Start with specialty chocolate found at your local store to compare light and dark chocolates, paying attention to the percentage of cacao. Try from different makers and manufacturers, single or multiple origin chocolates and pay attention to the ingredients in each. Activating the other senses is important to pick up the subtle notes in the chocolate. From the colour and smell to the texture and taste, focus on the details before devouring the whole box.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to eat chocolate. Flavours, smells and textures can produce different results from person to person. With experience, your chocolate palate can evolve and leave you ready to pair complex flavours with wine, beer, coffee, tea, cheese or other salty snacks. You could even try hints of florals, herbs or citrus! The possibilities are endless. For more great pairing options, check out the accompanying resource by Richart.
This infographic was created by Richart, a gourmet French chocolate company.
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