Weddings and chocolate go hand-in-hand to my eyes. But then again, to my eyes, anything goes with chocolate! A few weeks back I was asked to conduct a chocolate “degustation” for 25 as a pre-wedding activity. I love hosting chocolate tastings. Sharing a few of my favorite tricks, tastes and tips with bright-eyed eager tasters is one of my greatest pleasures. Although everyone in the group adored chocolate, no one claimed to be a connoisseur beyond just loving and indulging, much as we all do.
When casting a chocolate tasting, I like to mix in single origin as well as blends, and sneak in a basic supermarket brand or two. This keeps the tasting light and lively, and reduces the potential snob factor. I also like to make it personal, probing participants for adjectives and descriptors from their own vernacular rather than using someone else’s tasting wheel. I’ll offer an umbrella phrase and they’ll toss out words. For example, many describe chocolate as having an overriding bitter taste, but it also could be described as acidic, vinegar, winy, ear wax, etc., etc.
On to the tasting…
We put out baguettes and water to balance the palate between bites. These are good neutralizers. I often prefer bubbly water to flat for this purpose, though I can’t really explain why. It seems to work better – I’m sure there’s a reason.
The picks and the picks!
1) The first bar we tasted was Patrick Rogers 60% (5E) Venezuela single origin.
Hands down, this was the winner. The global adjectives were “smooth, clean, warm, red flowers and just sweet enough.” It has a bit of a kick to it. They also commented on how beautiful the color was and how smooth it felt in the mouth. The man knows how to make chocolate.
2) Cacao et Chocolate 39% Magdalena (4E50) (Equitable trade, biologique)
This is a blend of milk chocolate with a strong caramel taste. It’s darker milk, but milk nonetheless. The group liked it and thought it was “pretty,” meaning the caramel color was pleasing to the eye. They described the flavor as “Nestles-like, warm, familiar, caramel.” This came in 2nd to last on the list of favorites. Many who thought they only liked milk chocolate were pleasantly surprised at their choice. They all loved that it was a bio/fair trade product and wanted to buy some as a gift to take home.
3) Pierre Hermé 65% (8E50) Pure Origine
I was shocked that so many did not like this chocolate. Pierre Herme is a genius with chocolate and pastry. He happens to make the best croissant in the city, in my humble opinion. Herme also commands upward of 8 Euro per bar, so one would hope it would be enjoyed! Many thought it tasted like burnt milk, was waxy and tasted flat. Still, they were impressed with its look and feel.
4) Carrefour baking chocolate 70% (2E90 – 200oz!)
I love this chocolate. At under 2 Euro a bar, it’s a bargain and satisfies my ever-present chocolate craving. Funnily enough, the group loved it as well. They were not impressed with the look of it – it is after all a baking chocolate and not made to impress – but they loved the rich taste, which they described as “hot cocoa, warm, like an afternoon by a fire, milky, nice balance of sweet.”
5) Cacao & Chocolate 79% Dominican Republic, biologique (4E60) single origin
This was number 3 in the pick list. Again, the group loved the color and texture. They loved the undertones of mocha and the hint of clove. They pulled more descriptors for this one than any of the others. One man even used “nuances of nutmeg” as his line. He and I were very proud!
6) Weiss 72% Ebony blend – (3E50)
The group was shocked at the blackness of this bar. At 72% it is blacker than most bars in its category – one would expect a bar of this color to be 80+%. The group felt it was bitter, woody and rough but felt smooth in the mouth and they enjoyed it.
When the tasting was finished, everyone had had just about enough chocolate, but I wanted them to experience a new flavor to balance out the sugar in their bodies. I’d brought along a soft raw goat cheese to dip a piece of the chocolate into. Although they thought this a strange experiment and a few were disgusted, they understood why I’d had them do this and looked at me with new eyes, as if I was the cleverest person on earth!