Hosting Your Own Chocolate Tasting

by Culinary Spelunker /
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Mar 27, 2017 / 0 comments

Do you know the right way to eat chocolate?
Real chocolate, not the overly waxy variety that’s common in grocery store aisles and tends to have a saccharine aftertaste.
I didn’t.
Despite years of thinking of myself as a chocolate connoisseur and doing my best to have a daily serving (or two!) of chocolate, I’d never gone to a chocolate tasting, where the intricacies of the flavor and the importance of the purity of the beans were explained in detail.
Taste, Provo, Utah. From Hosting Your Own Chocolate Tasting
On a recent visit to Provo, Utah, my daughter and I stumbled on an eatery with an intriguing title – Taste.
Hosting Your Own Chocolate Tasting. We learned how to do it at Taste, in Provo, Utah
We stopped in to see what they offered.
The place had a feel of an upscale vintage diner married with modern hipster and foodie sensibilities. I loved it immediately.
Inside Taste, in Provo, Utah, where we learned how to do a chocolate tasting.
A display touted the eatery’s offerings...including a chocolate tasting session. A couple at the counter looked like they were just finishing. A chocolate tasting? I couldn’t resist, so we waited for our turn.
Our chocolate guide, Alyssa Alley, a culinary school graduate, asked us what kind of chocolate we’d like to sample – milk, dark, white.
a chocolate tasting at Taste, in Provo, Utah. From Hosting Your Own Chocolate Tasting
My daughter and I answered in unison: “Dark chocolate.”
Behind the counter, Alyssa pulled out the most amazing drawer I’ve ever seen. Chocolate bars lay on their side, filling the drawer one end to another.
Cutting chocolate at Taste, Provo, Utah. From  Hosting Your Own Chocolate Tasting
“We’ve got three drawers like this,” she explained.
The experience was akin to working with a cheesemonger. She asked us what kind of flavors we thought we liked – bitter or fruity, smooth or biting.
Chocolate drawer at Taste, Provo, Utah. From  Hosting Your Own Chocolate Tasting
She used a knife on a wooden slab to slice off a sample of our first chocolate – a French variety, called Chuao from François Pralus, sourced from Venzuela.
“Don’t eat it just yet, just hold it in between your fingers,” she directed.
That was a first. Of course, I wanted to pop it right into my mouth.
She detailed the proper way to eat a fine chocolate: First you hold it between your fingers until it leaves a bit of chocolate on your skin. Then, smell it (since so much of the joy of eating is the aroma) and then put it into your mouth, letting it melt on your tongue.
Alyssa prodded us to guess the flavors we were detecting – one sample had undertones of sassafras and vanilla. Another, that I didn’t care for but my daughter loved, had a goat’s milk vibe. Another had hints of lavender, honey and vanilla.
We downed glasses of water between chocolates. And at the end, she had us try three drinking vinegars to cleanse our palate.
Drinking vinegar at a chocolate tasting, to cleanse your palate. From Hosting Your Own Chocolate Tasting
During the experience, Alyssa went through how quality chocolate is made – and what makes it a fine chocolate, with an appropriately steep price tag. Chocolates made from a single source – so beans harvested from one place and crop, not a hodge-podge, are prized for the purity of their flavor. They also have a distinct essence because of where they’re grown. The cocoa bean absorbs what’s around it. All that flavor comes through in the finished product. A fine chocolate, for that reason, won’t have mix-ins like nuts, vanilla, or other additions. It doesn’t need it.
After all of the chocolate samples, we couldn’t help but finish off the experience with one of Taste’s chocolate molten cakes, drizzled with passionfruit vinegar and topped with fresh berries and heavy cream.
Molten chocolate cake at Taste, Provo, Utah. From Hosting Your Own Chocolate Tasting
You don’t have to go to Taste to sample quality chocolates – although fine chocolates can be hard to find. To host your own tasting with your family or friends, here are a few ideas about how to pull it off.

How to Hold Your Own Chocolate Tasting at Home

How to Hold your Own Chocolate Tasting
1.     Purchase 3-5 different kinds of quality chocolate. Fine chocolate doesn’t come cheap, so expect to pay a premium for the good stuff. I found some decent varieties at Whole Foods, but admittedly, they didn’t come close to Taste (which does ship).  

2.     Keep the chocolate at room temperature and in their packaging (no need to refrigerate).

3.     For the actual tasting, cut the chocolate bars one at a time. A small piece is all you need – about the size of a dime.

4.     Smell the chocolate to start detecting its scents and flavors.

5.     Place the chocolate piece in your hand to warm it up. Once the chocolate starts to melt onto your fingers pop it into your mouth.

6.     Allow the chocolate to dissolve on your tongue. Let it spread so that you can start noting hints of flavors like lavender, sassafras, honey or blackberry.

7.     Talk to the other tasters about the types of essences you’re noticing.

8.     Drink a glass of water.

9.     Taste the next chocolate.

10.  Repeat.

11.  Repeat.

12.  Repeat.

13.  Repeat.

14.  Consider finishing off the experience with a swig of drinking vinegar. (Only a small sample is needed.)



Kristen J. Gough is the Global Cuisines & Kids Editor for Wandering Educators. 


All photos courtesy and copyright Kristen J. Gough