'How to eat chocolate' seems like a ridiculous question to ask. I've always enjoyed eating chocolate and never put too much thought into the process of eating it until I met a few amazing people I would call 'Chocolate Experts'. While there is no wrong or right way to eat chocolate, these few steps I learned help open up your senses and mind to experiencing the taste of chocolate on a whole new level.
When I first visited the 'Underground Chocolate Salon', an event hosted by Megan Giller and her project Chocolate Noise, I had no idea that there was an art behind tasting chocolate. To access the taste and really understand the origins of the chocolate bar, you must go further than just using the sense of taste but rather draw on your other senses as well.
Megan started The Chocolate Salon to give chocolate lovers and intellectuals a chance to meet, discuss and learn from each other, in the same way that literary and artistic geniuses gathered together in Paris in the 1920's. The chocolate industry is more complicated than the average chocolate consumer realizes, and these meetings not only covered the newest bars emerging into the field, but also techniques on the different techniques for making chocolate, the origin of the cacao and more. You can read more about Megan's project at Chocolatenoise.com.
How to Eat Chocolate Like an Expert?
At The Underground Salon, we tasted different bars from artisan chocolate makers and Megan taught the group how to taste chocolate like an expert:
1. SEE: Examine the wrapper & the bar
Use your sense of sight to study the packaging and then, the chocolate itself. A lot of thought and effort goes into designing and marketing chocolate bars. Does the wrapper tell a story? Where is it from? (If you're guessing the origins of chocolate based on taste, then don't read the wrapper first obviously.) As for the bar, is it smooth? Are there any 'blooms' or white lines where the fat has risen to the surface? Once a chocolate bar has bloomed, it is still safe to eat, but it won't contain the original flavor it was meant to hold. You can gather a lot of information about chocolate before you taste it by examining the wrapper and bar before you begin.
2. SMELL: Break & Smell the Bar
Break your chocolate bar & smell the broken side. This helps you decipher the possible origin of the cacoa and weather or not it will be nutty, fruity, more additives, less additives, etc. It also just prepares your mind and pallet for the bite ahead.
3. TASTE: Small bites first
Take a small bite and chew two to three times. Then, let the chocolate melt in your mouth and soak in all of the flavors. Pay attention to the taste while you chew and the aftertaste.
4. COMPARE: Test other bars
Repeat the first 3 steps with another bar to compare the tastes. When you get really good, you'll be able to recognize the different tastes of bars made with cacao from unique parts of the world, or bars that use a specific type of sugar. Sometimes you'll even be able to taste the difference in the process it was made.
Like most things in life, to become an expert, practice makes perfect. The most important thing I learned from chocolate experts was being more aware the the process of eating chocolate. This heightened sense of awareness lead to a better experience, a better taste and now, a strong curiosity to taste more and more. Now, you can be a chocolate snob (or just a good friend :) ) and teach others 'How to Eat Chocolate'.