The Art of Tasting

The Art of Tasting

Sonny and Cher, PB & J, chocolate and wine….or coffee….or spirits….or, well, just about anything.  Chocolate is the perfect compliment to just about anything when paired correctly. But what does it take to not just “eat” chocolate…but really taste it?  To understand the nuances that make that chocolate special, and then find a pairing that will highlight the chocolate, or highlight the counterpart in which you’re partnering with? 

To start, we need to take a step back into your memories.  Eighty percent of what you taste, is actually linked to what you smell.  Taste and smell is intimately connected and connected to the limbic system of your brain- which is the where your emotions hang out.  So, based on your life experiences and memories, you will individually taste and smell things that are relational to your past.  These building blocks act as the foundation of what you'll experience when tasting flavors or creating pairings. 

Luckily, this means there isn’t always a “correct” answer when it comes to flavors and pairings, because we all come from different backgrounds.  As long as you can create a journey that is pleasant and makes sense to you, pairing chocolates can be as entertaining (and as endless) as the line outside Walmart on Black Friday!

Before you start creating a pairing, you need to understand what you’re working with- taste your coffee, whiskies, or wine and write down notes that stand out to you.  What’s the aroma?  How does it feel in your mouth?  What reactions are your soft tissues having (inside of your cheeks), what sensation is left after you swallow?  Pro tip: A good way to find an aromatic finish is once you swallow, close your mouth, and breathe out your nose.  You’ll be surprised at what your mind finds in that open air cavity up between your tonsils and your nasal passageway!

When pairing with chocolate, you need to find the flavors you hope to compliment.  How do you do this?  Try these steps to get the most sensation out of each bite:

#1-Sight- Look at the chocolate, what color is it? Milky beige, mahogany, reddish- brown, white or cream, khaki….the color helps identify the varietal of beans used and the cocoa percentage found in the chocolate.

#2- Smell- Smell the chocolate. Lightly rub the chocolate’s exterior to warm up the crystals, place it towards the nose and smell the chocolate to stimulate your senses. Cup right hand over nose to create a “vacuum” and take small inhales, which enhances ability to pick out all the notes (do you smell caramel, then nuttiness, then the sweetness of vanilla?)

#3- Sound- Snap the chocolate, a good snap means it’s been tempered correctly and has a high cocoa butter content (this is the fat found in chocolate and is good flavor carrier and needed for smooth meltability)

#4- Snack- Take a small bite and let it rest on the tongue for 10-15 seconds, do not chew it. Let it roll around in your mouth, on the tongue and coat your tissues with it….you’ll start to detect different flavors (tip of tongue is sweet, front sides sour, back sides salty, very back bitter notes) 

As the chocolate is melting, make sure to breathe- the aromas are being released, and breathe in through your nose to fully experience the notes of flowers, fruit, spice, caramel etc….then breathe out to create suction in the mouth, like a whistling effect, causing all the aromas from the chocolate to come together and move towards the nose.  Concentrate on the tongue, to feel the flavors. 

This is a great way to start your tasting and pairing adventure!  Contact your personal chocolatiers at TCS  if you're interested in taking this a step further with a personal chocolate tasting workshop or pairing event for your next get together or team-building activity!