Tasting Guide to Enjoying the Best Chocolate

Do you love chocolate? Can’t get enough of it? Is it your guilty pleasure? Well, guilt no more! There is good news; chocolate (in moderation) is actually good for you! Researchers have discovered that dark chocolate contains antioxidants. There is even some research that indicates that dark chocolate can help to lower blood pressure. So go ahead a next time you have the urge to have some chocolate go ahead, just make sure it is dark chocolate.

Dan's Chocolates

Speaking of chocolate, did you realize that there are various chocolate varietals? Just like there are many varieties of grapes/wine there are variations in cocoa beans/chocolate. When you think of wine you may think of grapes growing in France or the Napa Valley. Cocoa (cacao) beans grow in places like Venezuela, Trinidad and West Africa. The Cacao beans have different flavors depending on the variety of the bean and the region it was grown. Some chocolate makers offer bars in specific varietals while other chocolate makers prefer to blend several types of cacao beans together to make a custom blend.

I admit I am a little obsessed with chocolate. I regularly enjoy a piece of good dark chocolate. Since I have discovered really good chocolate, it is pretty easy to pass on the standard cheap stuff that you can find in any corner market. I have a few favorites…so can be a little hard to find but thanks to the internet, the best chocolate is just a few mouse clicks away.

A few of my favorites are:

• El Rey, dark 70% bar, www.chocolates-elrey.com,
• Scharffen Berger, bittersweet 70%, www.scharffenberger.com
• Valrhona, Valrhona Le Noir Amer , www.valrhona.com
• Bonnat, Bonnat Madagascar 75%, www.bonnat-chocolatier.com
• Nirvana Chocolate, truffles, 10% Off All Orders $10 + with code 9433
• Theo Chocolate, Bread & Chocolate, www.theochocolate.com
• Donnelly Chocolate, all of the truffles, www.donnellychocolates.com
• Fran’s Chocolate, chocolate figs, www.franschocolates.com
• Cocoa West, the hot chocolate, www.cocoawest.com

One fun way to discover some of your favorite chocolates is to have a chocolate tasting party. To do this, you will want to get about six different chocolate bars. You will want to break the bars into bite sized pieces and place the pieces in containers (use containers that look the same but label them with a code so you know which chocolate is which). Generally, at the tasting, you will want to start with the chocolate with the least amount of sugar first and work your way up to the chocolate with the most sugar added. You should always allow chocolate to come to room temperature before tasting or eating it. You will want to taste will all of your senses.

• Look at the chocolate. It should be smooth and have a nice sheen.
• Break the chocolate. You should hear the chocolate snap. Good chocolate should break cleanly and have an even color throughout the bar.
• Smell the chocolate. Rub a piece lightly between your fingers to help release the aromas. Notice how each type smells a little different? Can you pick up any special scents? Do you smell spices, coffee, vanilla, florals, carmel or nuts?
• Taste the chocolate. Place a piece of chocolate in you mouth and allow it to melt on your tongue. Feel the texture. Is it smooth and creamy? See if you can identify the various tastes. Notice the differences in the tastes. Can you pick out vanilla, fruit, carmel, cinnamon, smoke, or nuts? Any other flavors? Some of the flavors will build while others will be very strong at first and then fade. You will notice that some leave a bitter aftertaste, while others are sweet.

Which chocolates did you like best? You might want to keep notes of your tastings. This way you will begin to see which varietals you like the best. Happy Tasting!

5-Star Chocolate Bars

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