Tasting our Hawai‘ian bean-to-bar chocolate at home? Here are some chocolate tasting tips that will make your experience feel almost like you are right here with us in Honoka‘a town.
Temperature: chocolate should be consumed at room temperature, but never expose it to temperatures greater than about 85F or it risks losing its temper. Not to be confused with state of mind, temper is what gives chocolate it’s desirable smooth, shiny finish, the snap when you break a piece from a bar, and what keeps it from melting in your hand.
Fragrance: before tasting, smell the chocolate. Some bars are very fragrant, with scents of bright fruits, and others have very little fragrance.
Melt and cover your palate with chocolate: similar to wine tasting, you want to expose all parts of your palate to the sample in order to experience all of the flavors. Different parts of your palate are responsible for sensing different flavors. Contrary to some misinformation, it's important to chew, but wait for a half minute to swallow.
Mouthfeel: some of the words that we use to describe how chocolate feels in our mouth include smooth, chalky, grainy, and gummy. These are all related to the particle size of the cocoa solids. Perfectly smooth chocolate has a particle size range of 20 to 30 microns, just slightly smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Larger than this and the mouthfeel becomes chalky and grainy. When particles are refined to less than 10 microns, they start to stick to your palate and the chocolate becomes gummy.
Flavor: We typically discuss three main flavors in our chocolate tasting experiences - opening, middle and finish. There are no wrong answers when it comes to flavors - we all experience flavors differently due to variables such as age, culture and lifestyle, so there are no wrong answers.
Acidity/Bitterness/Astringency: while these are not very desirable flavors on their own, when they're in balance with the other flavors it's what makes chocolate (and any food for that matter) interesting.
Aroma: After you've swallowed your sample, breathe in through your mouth and exhale through your nose. This is a combination of flavor and fragrance.
Balance: a great chocolate will not have any one attribute that stands out apart from others. All attributes are working in harmony to give you a great experience.
Finish: this is the residual flavor remaining after you've swallowed the chocolate. Two important attributes of the finish are that it's not too long or short, and that it doesn't distract you from the experience of delicious chocolate that you just tasted.
Palate cleansing: If you're a pro, you'd use 120F water (that's the best palate cleanser), although many other things will work. We recommend a glass of room temperature water ready to cleanse palate between chocolates, or use our suggested pairings if you’re feeling adventurous!