Tips on how to identify and taste fine Chocolate

Chocolatiers use a language similar to wine tasters to describe the complex variety of aromas and tastes they find. Cacao beans are said to have over 400 separate aromas and over 300 different flavours and the finest chocolates have different ‘notes’ which, like fine wine, develop and linger in the mouth.

Begin by cleansing the palette. Sparkling, and iced water, tend to numb the senses so try still, room temperature water - or a dry cracker, or small piece of bread, or an apple slice, in order to eliminate any pre-existing flavours which could mask or distort the flavours.

Allow the chocolate to come to room temperature. Observe the colour - there should be no white powder, or so-called ‘bloom’, on the surface.

Next, snap a small piece in half and inhale the aroma at the break. There should be the warm, unmistakable fragrance of cacao. Then look for any fruity notes. Engaging the sense of smell is a teaser for the tongue. Beware of plastic or chemical smells or a lack of aroma. With a little practice you will be able to tell a lot about chocolate simply by smelling it.

Place the piece on the tongue, without chewing, allow it to melt - and pay attention to the texture. Is it smooth or gritty? How does the flavour develop? Some chocolate has one flavour throughout and others will change as they melt. Does it linger after it’s gone? Are there hints of raspberries? Too much sugar, or poor quality beans, will deaden the flavours and leave a dull, flat aftertaste. The roof of the mouth should not feel waxy, and the texture should be smooth rather than grainy.