“Look, snap, smell, place, taste,
Savor the flavor, feel and rate.”
This is a line from the jingle I sing in my “eatertainment” show “Chocabaret: a tasting of artisanal chocolates matched to songs with Singing Chef Jackie Gordon”. In Chocabaret, the audience learns how to taste chocolate like professional chocolate tasters do. Yes, it is an actual job! I sing the basic instructions and then go into detail of each step.
LOOK: Chocolate should be smooth and shiny. A dull gray cast or color that sometimes appears on the surface of chocolate is called “bloom”. It does not affect the taste of the chocolate, but it is a sign of a not well made chocolate or chocolate that was exposed to one of its enemies: cold, heat, water, etc. Such exposure causes the cocoa butter to separate and rise to the surface
SNAP: When chocolate is well made it makes what they call a pleasing SNAP when you break it. A chocolate bar or the shell of a bon-bon should crack or snap when you sink your teeth into it or cut into it. If it bends or makes more of a dull noise this is the sign on a poorly made chocolate.
SMELL: Eighty percent of taste is smell. If you don’t believe me, try holding your nose and then tasting something. Release your nose and taste the item again. Not being able to smell reduces the amount of taste or flavor that we get from food. Feel sorry for people who lose their sense of taste. Eating becomes very boring for them.
In chocolate, you’re looking for delicious smells like chocolate, coffee, dairy, vanilla, spices, red fruits like plum and berries, yellow fruits like lemons orange fruits like apricots. Smells you don’t want in your chocolate are burned smells that can come from over-roasting the cacao beans, rubbery and chemically smells, rancidity, mold.
PLACE/TASTE: Professional chocolate tasters do not gobble down the chocolate. When tasting chocolate like a professional you place the chocolate on your tongue right in the middle. Push it up so it hits your upper palate. This will generate the heat needed to melt the chocolate. If it seems like it’s taking a while to melt, give it a little nibble. As the chocolate melts, smoosh it around your mouth so it hits all the taste zones in your mouth. The tip of the tongue tastes sweet and salty, the sides taste sour and the back tastes bitter. So makes sure you hit all the zones.
SAVOR the FLAVOR: What are the flavor notes you’re finding in the chocolate? You’re looking for delicious tastes like we did with the smells and not nasty flavors. Tasting inspires memories. When I eat rose flavored candies I can’t help but think of the little rose soaps that my Grandma used to put out — just for company. What thoughts are coming to you? – Use the flavor wheel for inspiration if you can’t quite find the words — you can write them down on your notes. Take a chocolate breath. Breathe through your mouth and exhale through your nose. This opens up your olfactory perception even more.
Look for a fully, chocolaty taste. Is it balanced? Is it too sweet? Too sour? Too bitter? Too sharp?
Does the flavor linger? Long lasting flavor is a sign of a well made chocolate.
FEEL: How does the chocolate feel in your mouth. Is it smooth, it gritty? FUN FACT: Back in the early days of chocolate bars it must have been very gritty because unscrupulous makers added things like chalk, brick dust, clay even dirt to chocolate to get more chocolate for their money to sell. These days that’s much harder to do because we consider grittiness to be a sign of poor chocolate.
RATE: There’s no right or wrong. Rate the chocolates using my scientific scale just so you have a note of whether not you liked it. My scale is fairly self explanatory. 0-5 From Get it out of my mouth to YES! YES! YES!