Our guide to the perfect Chocolate Tasting Board
Much like cheese, wine or whisky, Chocolate is a food which deserves the best treatment.
Full of complex tasting notes, chocolate is a food that for years has been thought of as a cheap, sweet pick-me-up, rather than the cocophony of fine flavours that it truly is.
One of the best ways to delve into the world of fine chocolate is to set up a tasting evening in your home, and spend time with friends exploring the world of the cocoa. Here's our guide to making the perfect tasting board:
1. Choose your chocolate
Too many different chocolates will be overwhelming, so be sure to limit your board to a maximum of 5-6 different types. Whilst we would encourage you to stick with fine, single-origin chocolate to make sure you get the best flavours possible, it's interesting to include a mass produced brand initially to compare and benchmark to taste the difference. We love Marou from Vietnam, Grenada Chocolate Co, from the island of Grenada in the Caribbean and Chocolat Madagascar, all of whom are single origin, Raisetrade chocolates (ie: produced from tree to bar in their country of origin), that truly showcase the wonderful complex flavours that cocoa grown in different countries around the world display.
Top tip: Don't store your chocolate in the fridge. Store it in a cool, dark place away from strong odours. If your only storage is in the fridge due to the outside temperature, then make sure you remove it and allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before tasting.
2. Prep your taste buds
Don't eat and drink any strong flavours just before trying chocolate. As it is with fine cheese and wine, strong flavours on the palate will change the flavour, and may mask some of the delicate flavour notes.
3. Start at the bottom
Choose your tasting order based on cocoa solid percentages, starting with the lowest percentage and working your way up. Your palate will find higher percentages easier to taste as you work up the scale and it will really make you appreciate how sweet "industrial" mass produced chocolate with much lower cocoa content is!
4. Let it melt
When tasting chocolate, take a small amount and let it melt on your tongue. As the piece warms up and starts to melt in your mouth, different flavours will start to come through. After a good few seconds, roll the chocolate round your mouth and chew. This way you will experience all that the chocolate has to offer.
For example, some chocolates are "quiet" initially & then the flavours start to come through as it melts, others are more "upfront" the moment you put it in your mouth and then can sometimes fade away. Also concentrate on the "finish" once it has all melted - is it rounded, soft, smooth? does it leave a pleasant taste in the mouth?
Sometimes it helps to close your eyes when tasting as it focuses you on the flavours in your mouth & also to see if a colour pops into your head when tasting a particular chocolate - these can then be translated into flavours eg: red = berry fruits, yellow = bananas, peaches etc; brown = mushroom, earthy, woody; green = herbs, grassy etc!
5. Cleanse your palate
Drink water between each tasting to ensure that your palate is thoroughly cleansed and reset, ready for the next piece of chocolate. Don't drink iced water though - that will deaden your taste buds!
6. Enjoy the flavour
A tasting board is all about exploring a new world of flavours and appreciating fine food for what it is! There are no right or wrong answers and everyone's palates are different, so will react in different ways to the same chocolate. Enjoy what you are trying, try new chocolates that previously you may not have chosen and most importanly, have fun!