I recently attended a craft chocolate tasting in the city hosted by Bar & Bean, and it was awesome! I learned so much about chocolate (the history, how it’s made, where it’s made, etc.). For instance, do you really know and understand what you’re choosing when you pick out a bar of “nice chocolate” at the store? I thought I did until this tasting session.
And the delicious perk for attending this event? I got to taste a BUNCH of small batch chocolate bars from all different places! :) Among some of the fun facts received, I learned that 80% cacao can mean different things, and that all chocolate bars are not created equal.
In honor of National Chocolate Day coming up on October 28, 2013, and with the help of Bar & Bean, I’m going to share some of the things I learned so you will know how to properly taste chocolate next time you eat a bar.
So let’s have Hershey’s sit this one out and focus on the good stuff. Ready? Let’s go!
Fun Fact: The majority of the chocolate flavor depends on where the cacao is grown and how the beans are fermented and dried. This all happens before the chocolate maker gets his or her hands on the raw ingredients and each part is really important; if parts are not properly monitored, the chocolate won’t reach its full potential.
Another fun fact (that completely threw me for a loop but I guess it’s not that surprising when you actually think about it, right?): Big corporate companies like Hershey’s dull down these unique flavors on purpose. Varying flavors are intentionally overshadowed so that Hershey’s chocolate bars will taste the same no matter where they are made. That sort of bums me out because Hershey’s is known as a go-to chocolate, and they’ve been keeping the good stuff from us all along.
So if you want to enjoy the taste of one-of-a-kind chocolate that was made to really bring out the flavors in a specific cacao bean, try a bar of craft chocolate. Plus, you’ll be helping out small batch makers by purchasing their bars! Craft chocolate is sort of like wine…you won’t get the same bar from the same chocolate maker year after year, even if the beans come from the same farm so that’s also fun to think about.
After tasting many craft chocolates in a row, it’s really easy to see how each bar is so unique. I learned that I really loved Escazu and Mast Brothers (learn about their interesting story here), and then there were a few brands I didn’t care for. Nonetheless, I really developed an appreciation for these chocolate makers and their chocolate. Now, it’s time for you to learn! :)
Things you may not know about chocolate:
- It takes one week for a chocolate maker to go from the cacao bean to the chocolate bar (in some cases, it’s longer)
- Americans eat it in some form 107 times a year, on average.
- There are more than 51 bean-to-bar chocolate makers in America.
Important Fun Fact: Cocoa Percentage is actually a combination of cacao butter, cacao powder, and cacao mass so it can affect the taste of the bar in many different ways. I never knew this! I assumed that there was a standard, and this information will definitely make me think again the next time I buy chocolate bars.
Now, most importantly…
How to properly taste chocolate in order to experience all of the flavors:
When you grab your next piece of chocolate…
- Don’t eat the piece immediately, but also don’t let it melt :)
- Take a look at its complexion. If it’s really shiny and dark, you know it’s going to have a good snap.
- Smell it. This is a sneak peek at the flavors you’ll taste when you dive in.
- Hold it on your tongue while it melts. Give the cocoa butter time to melt and release all those great aromatics.
- Taste the flavor profile as it develops.
(If you’re tasting multiple bars, write down what you’re tasting/smelling/seeing during these steps. It’s also really fun to compare these notes with others!)
Things that you’ll find are unique to each bar:
- How it feels in your mouth
- The flavors over time
- What it tastes like afterwards
This was one of my favorite parts of the chocolate tasting. I never knew there was a technique! It’s awesome to share this information with friends and you could even grab a couple bars and host a blind chocolate tasting. Then after the tasting, bring out some wine, cheese, fruit, and nuts to make it a party.
There you go! You are now a craft chocolate tasting expert :) Let me know if you try these tasting techniques the next time you grab a bar!
Oh, and Happy (early) National Chocolate Day!!! Help spread the word about National Chocolate Day by linking up here!
[Bar & Bean provided the chocolate tasting, but all opinions are my own. Thanks Bar & Bean for teaching me all about chocolate!]