Veronica Brundle - Nov 4 2021, 11:45:27 AM
We can’t say that wine tastings are completely out, but after the seventh red wine tour or going to a friend’s home to taste a variety of pinot, many people crave something a little more complex. In comes our new favorite event: chocolate tasting.
Just like a wine tasting, chocolate tastings allow attendees to explore the rich world of chocolate, tasting a variety of decadent pieces and bars to see the complexity of each chocolate maker’s work, with rich, full flavors and unique undertones, just like the wine tasting staple. Attendees will sample a variety of bars (4-5 is usually a good place to start; although, hosts who want to provide more varieties should aim for serving guests 1 oz size pieces) and discuss the different aromas and flavors they taste within the chocolate.
As users become more familiar with chocolate tasting, they’ll begin to notice more of the ingredients coming to life as they eat the bar; however, novices can examine more basic components of chocolate consuming, such as the bar’s color and texture. This can be extremely fun for those looking to compare the same bar flavors from different makers being it allows the eater to see how each recipe is different before looking for subtle (or sometimes strong) differences in taste.
Want to learn more about how to get the most out of your chocolate tasting kit? Read on to learn about how to plan the perfect party, what you need to have to make sure your tasting becomes an overnight success and how to properly sample each of your chocolates.
Exactly who is up to you, but be sure to invite people who you know will want to discuss chocolate. For your first party, don’t feel like you need to invite everyone you know either; up to ten guests is more than enough for those looking to host a chocolate tasting party. With more than that, you risk not only needing to spend more but also needing to provide enough chocolate for each guest to get a proper taste. Have some friends that don’t drink? This is the perfect event for them to attend if you don’t plan on or want to pair your chocolate with alcohol.
We’ll be the first to admit this isn’t the event for Nestle or Hershey’s to be the stars; although, you’re welcome to grab some to taste the difference. Look for some high quality, artisanal chocolates that are made by actual chocolatiers. There are many crafters in most American towns as well as more and more grocery and big box stores carrying a variety of more gourmet options for their customers to choose from. Still coming up empty handed? Look at online retailers. From grocery stores to actual chocolatiers with their own websites or e-commerce stores, online shoppers can access a plethora of gourmet chocolate options that simply aren’t available online. You can also search for chocolate tasting kits. Several retailers offer kits that contain everything you need for a chocolate tasting, including the artisanal chocolates that make the event possible. Finally, do some preliminary research so you know what to look for in chocolate before it even leaves the bag. Many artisanal chocolatiers are “bean to bar” manufacturers, meaning they processed the entire product from the cocoa beans to the finished chocolate. This shows you that the chocolate maker cares about the product and works hard to ensure that the entire process is completed their way.
Just like wines and cheeses, chocolate beans come from all over the world. When you source your chocolate made from beans in different areas, you’ll receive bars with complex and different flavor profiles than those sourced from the same area (although, it’s worth noting that many complexities are formed by the chocolatiers who make the bars as well). Cocoa beans originated in South America, but most plants are now grown in Africa. Select a few countries of origin when choosing chocolates for your tasting, ideally by selecting bars with similar cocoa percentages. You’ll taste the difference immediately and will be well on your way to becoming a chocolate connoisseur in no time.
You know which chocolate you want to provide to your guests, but how much do you need to buy? What about a palette cleanser between bars? Should you serve food? What should your guests have to drink? All these questions are more than valid, and it’s important to address each point.
When looking at how much chocolate to provide, the best course of action is about an ounce per person if looking to serve a large variety of chocolates. However, for tastings featuring up to five types of bars, you may want to allocate slightly more to your guests, with some even opting for a full-size bar per person. You want to provide guests with an adequate amount of chocolate without overwhelming them.
While traditional palette cleansers like sorbet are great, they may not always be the best item to pair with chocolate. Instead, look for palette cleansers that can cut through the richness of chocolate, like lemon water or green apple slices. These slightly sour items will cleanse the palette by removing the coating of chocolate on your tongue as well removing any lingering sugars from the bar.
When considering serving food, take the time to think about what kind of party you want to have. Some chocolate tastings come after a meal, others will serve dishes made with the chocolate for a multi-course meal and others simply offer the chocolate itself. There’s no real right or wrong thing to serve with chocolate, but many people will look for items that won’t overpower the chocolate’s flavor, such as finger foods like pretzels or peanuts (keeping allergies in mind).
Chocolates can be served with a variety of beverages. For non-alcoholic parties, simple water is an excellent option. For those with alcohol, wine can seem like the staple; however, heavy reds can overpower the delicate richness of most chocolates. Instead, look to pair chocolates with white wines to cut through the richness without overpowering the chocolate. To think outside the box (and in our opinion, some of the best pairings are the non-traditional ones), look for other alcohols like whiskies or cognacs for a complex flavor combination that can’t be beat.
Most people haven’t attended a chocolate tasting, so this will be a fun and new experience for (hopefully) a lot of your guests. Create little note cards that list the brand of the chocolate, a little bit of its backstory and where the beans were sourced to let your guests know about the chocolate delight they’re about to taste. If the chocolate contains any taste notes, be sure to include those as well and let people see if they can taste the flavors the chocolate is supposed to have—no matter how subtle.
When each guest arrives, give them notecards with each chocolate’s name. Your guests can then use these cards to write down what they initially tasted in the chocolate as well as their initial impressions when tasting the chocolate. As the night goes on, and guest start to realize what they’re looking for in their chocolate (as well as a few drinks if you choose to serve alcohol), their commentary can become more in-depth or even silly.
When the night is winding down, have a discussion about the chocolates sampled and see if guests wrote like-minded commentary on what they tasted. Some people’s tastebuds will be slightly different, leading to different commentary depending on who is tasting the chocolate as well as differing tastes and palettes. Look to see if there’s a general consensus on which chocolates tasted the best (and worst). As a parting gift, give guests a dessert chocolate, like a truffle, for the road.
The most important thing to do at your chocolate tasting party is to have fun. There are a variety of ways one can host a chocolate tasting party, but the main thing to do is have fun and host a party that you can be proud of. Whether you decide to serve alcohol or food or just strictly focus on the chocolate, your party is sure to be a success.
If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of chocolates available or worry about pairing different flavors together, we’re here to help with two very different (and very delicious) chocolate tasting packages that can’t be beat. The first is Adventures in Chocolate by Cocoa + Co. Participants receive 4 full-size bars and are able to join Zoom to learn about the history of chocolate, how their bars were made and information about each bar during an hour long tasting. Want something with alcohol? Gourmet Boutique has got you covered with their Whiskey & Chocolate Tasting. Featuring two bottles of whiskey and 5 craft bars that are curated to pair well with the alcohol, this is another event you don’t want to miss!
Originally published at Nov 4 2021, 11:45:27 AM. Updated on Sep 30 2022.