Think you know your chocolate? We’ve put together some quick notes to help you identify and appreciate good quality…
KNOW YOUR BEANS
Not all beans are created equal, and the type of bean your chocolate is made of can make a massive difference to the taste. The three varieties of cocoa bean are:
Criollo – this is the top bean. Grows in Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Venezuela and has done for over 3000 years. Also in Colombia, Trinidad, Jamaica and Grenada. Slightly bitter but aromatic. Pale colour giving chocolate a reddish tinge.
Forastero – Originates from the Upper Amazon region in South America and now grow in Ghana, Ivory Coast and the Cameroon. This cocoa forms the base ingredient in most chocolates.
Trinitario – from the island of Trinidad and is a cross between the Criollo and Forastero – After the cocoa plantation on the island was almost destroyed in the eighteenth century, the two varieties were crossed. Trinitario trees are now grown wherever Criollo is found, as well as Java, Papua-New-Guinea, Sri Lanka and Cameroon.
LOOK AND SNAP
Take a proper look at it. What colour is it? Good quality chocolate is more likely to have reddish tones, signifying the presence of the Criollo. A glossy finish is desirable, and when you snap it, it should make a clear ‘crack!’
Close your eyes and take in a deep smell of the chocolate. It’s as diverse and complex as tasting wine. Obviously you’re going to get a hit of chocolate or cocoa, but keep in mind the aromas of tobacco, leather, fruit, warm spices and even maybe cheese notes.
To check your chocolate quality, you need to taste it!
- Don’t chew. Allow the chocolate to melt on your tongue.
- Swoosh it round your mouth fully when melted.
- Whilst all this is going on, breathe through it. Develop the flavour in your nose.
- Then go in for a second crack and this time, chew it. You’ll release different flavours.
- Look out for things like butterscotch, liquorice, coffee, bread, salt and fermented notes. All of these signify good quality chocolate.
- Low grade chocolate can result in burnt flavour. And chocolate that is overly sweet can be the result of trying to jazz up poor quality beans.
- Also note how long you can taste it afterwards. The longer it lingers, the better it is.
HOW DOES IT FEEL?
In your mouth it should be smooth and silky. Chocolate’s melting point is 93°F
, close to body temperature, so when we melt it, it feels unctuous and rich and just like it was made for your mouth.
SO NOW YOU KNOW
There are approximately 300 different flavours and tastes present in chocolate, and the more you taste it, the more refined your palate will become. Enjoy your new project – you’re welcome!
National Chocolate Week is 15-21 October 2015