Chocolate, like all that is precious, requires attentive listening and a spirit of discovery. Tasting it thus becomes not only a way to test the impact that chocolate has on our 5 senses, but also an exercise of awareness, of "beyond-ness", of the present moment, of the "here and now". In this way, chocolate will speak to us not only about ourselves, but also about us, about our inclination towards a taste rather than another, of our sensitivity to a particular taste, of our state of mind.
They often ask me what my favorite chocolate is: generally speaking, I would say dark chocolate, but would it be appropriate for me to dismiss the matter in such a hurry? There are those days when I look for a mother’s consoling breast in chocolate, and then I feel attracted to milk chocolate and - why not? - also to white chocolate, if it is of quality.
There are other days in which, instead, I look only for dark chocolate, with its balance, its blend of sweet and bitter, its infinite nuances that require attention and listening 😊.
We have to dismiss any snobbish or prejudist attitude: chocolate needs to be experienced!
That said, I will now illustrate the technique of chocolate tasting in five steps, taking dark chocolate into consideration, that is, an approach that allows us to grasp more easily the difference in quality of the raw materials used.
First of all, consider this fact: in nature, over 13,000 types of cocoa have already been catalogued – THIRTEEN THOUSAND! - therefore the differences between one chocolate and another, both in terms of price and aromatic hints, can be really abysmal. The quality of a chocolate, in short, depends on several factors, including: which types of cocoa were used, where they were grown and how, where is the plantation from and what is its terroir, how was the chocolate collected, how the entire production process was carried out, what ingredients were added, how the product was stored and, not least, the characteristics of the environment in which it is tasted.
It is obviously not mandatory to always do a technical tasting: of course not! In fact, chocolate, like all food, should be a fun activity. Sometimes, however, I recommend you take time to try to listen to it by following this path: you will discover many more things about the chocolate you are eating.
- STEP 1: VISUAL EXAM
After unwrapping the product, the first step is to observe its colour: remember that cocoa is not black, but brown (albeit with its various shades); it therefore follows that chocolate should never be black, because often that colour is nothing but the result of a roasting performed at overly high temperatures. Once this is done, the chocolate will also be looked at a cross-section, looking for any air bubbles and so as to be able to appreciate the smoothing or any filling.
- STEP 2: TACTILE EXAM
We pass 2-3 times the thumb on the underside of the chocolate (where there are no dotted segments or the logo of the mould), listening to the speed of fusion at the passage of our fingertip.
- STEP 3: OLFACTORY EXAM
Let us remember that smells aren’t sensed in the nostrils, but at the root of the nose, where they approach the brain, the transmission centre; this means that we will have to "sniff up" strongly, as all animals do when they look for an odour. In the same way, we must remember that the sense of smell often builds tolerance: to prevent this from happening, it is therefore essential that you avoid keeping the product close to the nose for more than a few seconds, continuing instead to move it away and approach it several times, looking for new smells.
- STEP 4: AUDITORY EXAM
"But come on, Walter! - the students sometimes tell me – You wouldn’t really have us believe that chocolate sings?" "Yes, of course it sings”. But we can only hear its song if we bite it in the middle in the company of other people (each person his own half, of course). When our guests break it in half with their teeth, the chocolate will emit a cracking sound, which is referred to as a snap; the higher the musical note, the more the chocolate will be crispy! To give you an example, the opposite of a crunchy chocolate is a good gianduiotto, which, being creamy, will crumble with a very low musical note.
- STEP 5: TASTE EXAM
Finally! Should chocolate be bitten or left to melt? Both things: we nibble it slowly, letting it melt slowly in the mouth so that it can express its best in contact with our taste buds. The taste examination is completed with the retro-olfactory examination, sensing the smells of the chocolate that come back into the nose passing through the throat.
If you want to complete your journey in this intriguing pleasure that is chocolate, try to combine a distillate (rum, cognac, whiskey, grappa) or one of the rare wines that are definitely worth trying: Merlino, Barolo Chinato, or Ala amarascato. And if you want to touch the sky, do not forget to enjoy a good cigar!