How to review and compare chocolate taste
Learn how chocolate experts review fine chocolates — and how to choose the best chocolates for your own enjoyment.
Photo Credit: Rebecca Ellis
By Natalie Cooper
Those of us who enjoy wine, beer or single-malt scotch whiskey without being able to distinguish floral notes or a fruity finish will be intrigued to learn that the world of fine chocolate also has a grading system. The chocolate bars reviewed in this way are a far cry from the ones you can buy in convenience stores, much the same way that a fine wine is different from a wine cooler .
Average folks who might describe themselves a chocoholics usually prefer milk chocolate or flavored chocolate to satisfy their cravings. However, a chocolate connoisseur wishing to review a particular company s chocolate (or the quality of chocolate that is generally produced by a given country s best chocolate makers) will choose something decidedly different: a strong dark chocolate bar with no added flavoring.
According to chocolate experts, one of the major factors in what makes chocolate so satisfying is its melt the quality of melting close to body temperature that makes the chocolate melt in your mouth . And what causes a good melt is the use of cocoa butter. The use of fat substitutes will cause the chocolate to have a lower review (or not to be reviewed at all!). Also, chocolate reviewers will generally avoid any bars that include artificial flavorings, including the use of vanillin (a chemical substitute for vanilla).
Aroma is another factor in chocolate appreciation. Besides the obvious rich and chocolaty aroma that all good chocolate should provide, experienced chocolate reviewers can detect notes such as citrus, tobacco, forest fruits, coffee, and cheese.
Snap is another quality on which chocolate is graded, and it refers to the way a bar breaks whether it bends first, breaks in a brittle way, or breaks with a good clean snap. Once broken, the chocolate is even graded on the appearance of the cross-section where it was broken, and whether it has air bubbles inside (ideally, it should not).
Of course, flavor is important (I don t know about you, but it s certainly high on my list of reasons to eat chocolate), so it is one of the most vital aspects of a chocolate review. As with the aroma, the flavor of a good chocolate usually has notes such as coffee, toffee, citrus, liquor and more. And good flavor is the reason that chocolate reviewers avoid artificial ingredients if an ingredient has a strong or chemical taste, it will be necessary for the manufacturer to cover it up with more sugar, and the flavor of the underlying chocolate will also be diluted.
The reviewer finishes the review with an appreciation of the chocolate s length no, not a measurement of the candy bar itself, but a measure of how long the taste lingers in the mouth and whether other flavors develop during that time. Poor quality chocolate leaves a bitter or metallic aftertaste, while the flavor of good chocolate with all-natural ingredients only gets better with time and may linger for as much as 40 minutes after the tasting!
Interestingly, the poor quality of cheap chocolates is what compels us to eat more of them. That s because although the initial flavor of the chocolate is good and satisfying, the flavors of the chemical additives and preservatives quickly take over so you have to keep eating the chocolate in order to sustain the good experience. In contrast, a good quality chocolate with a pleasant aftertaste can be enjoyed in a smaller quantity.
So can you rationalize eating expensive chocolate as a health food or diet food? Hey, it s worth a try! At the very least, chocolate appreciation is now a legitimate hobby.
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