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While flavor is the most important aspect to chocolate, there are a number of factors contributing to how people perceive and articulate flavor. Although there is a scientific foundation to the process of taste, how a person perceives flavor depends on a number of non-scientific variables such as: childhood exposures to flavors, ethnic origin, physiological reaction to flavors, range of flavor experience.

So how do you taste chocolate? Here are some suggestions:

LOOK
First, use your eyes to judge the appearance: Take a look at your chocolate. What does it look like? Is it glossy, shiny, dull, gray, have cracks? A fine, well-tempered chocolate should have a shiny finish if it has been molded and a satin finish if it has been dipped. What color is it? Chocolate can range from deep brown to reddish brown. Color depends on the origin of the cocoa beans and how they were roasted.

TOUCH
Break off a piece of the chocolate. You should hear a distinctive snap. This is the sound of a well-tempered chocolate. Also, hold a piece of the chocolate between your fingers and notice how quickly it melts. Rub your fingers together to test its smoothness. Cocoa butter melts more quickly than sugar, so the higher the proportion of cocoa butter, the more quickly it will melt.

SMELL
Lift your fingers with the melted chocolate to your nose. It should smell like chocolate with no off odors. Fine chocolate can have floral, fruity or caramel aromas and some chocolatiers use similar language as wine tasters to describe the aromas.

TASTE
Place a small piece of chocolate on your tongue and let it slowly melt. Once it has melted, run your tongue around your mouth to get the full mouth feel of the texture of the chocolate, it should be smooth and velvety. Fine chocolate will be smooth while cheap chocolate will feel gritty.

Cocoa liquor flavors naturally include:

  • Nuttiness/sweet (cashew) or bitter (burnt almond)
  • Acidity: Present in all chocolates in differing amounts and keeps the flavor from being flat
  • Fruitiness: can range from citrus to berry to dried fruit (raisin)
  • Floral: usually close to jasmine or roses
  • Bitterness: this is an integral part of chocolate flavor, but how it is balanced with sugar and spices is the mark of a great chocolate

THE FINISH
There should not be a greasy or waxy film left in your mouth after you swallow. You should only have a lingering flavor in your mouth. Flavor that lingers for a while in your mouth indicates that the chocolate has a long finish.

NOTE: Most experts recommend room temperature water as the best palate cleanser between tastings– still or fizzy water will work.
If you are getting a little confused and you are finding if difficult to differentiate aromas, try smelling a cup of freshly brewed coffee to clear your nose between tastings.