The taste of chocolate is extremely complex. It contains more than 600 flavour compounds – red wine has just 200. There are four main factors when it comes to tasting chocolate.
Smell is caused by airborne molecules that are absorbed through the nasal membranes upon inhalation.
When you smell chocolate, you will find that some types of chocolate have scents reminiscent of berries and fruits, while others have notes of almonds, coffee or burnt wood. So go ahead and have a sniff before you bite – it tells a lot about the chocolate.
Have a look at the chocolate. Good chocolate is crispy, glossy and smooth to the touch. The colour is deep brown and without any white spots. A whitish coating is called chocolate bloom – cocoa butter separating from sugar and cocoa solids. It is a telltale sign of old or poorly made chocolate. Pro tip: Check the label – quality chocolate does not contain a lot of additives.
Take your time and let the chocolate melt slowly in your mouth for at least a minute without eating it. The small flavour receptors are focused around the tip, the side and the back of the tongue. So don’t be afraid to take a big bite and let the chocolate fill your mouth. Humans can taste sour, sweet, bitter, salt and umami. Researchers are also discussing whether we have the ability to detect a sixth flavour; ‘fat flavour’. Fat binds flavours in food, and is especially useful in chocolate, where cocoa butter can add notes of fruit, nuts and flowers.
Inhale the aroma to catch the first flavours released by the chocolate. Aroma is created by airborne molecules that are released when we chew. High quality chocolate is rich in both taste and aroma. Try to detect whether the aromas are fruity, floral or spicy and notice the character and length of the aftertaste.