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Chocolate tasting

chocolateJed organized a group to go chocolate tasting at a class at Draeger's in San Mateo. It was run by Jason Garoutte, who had given a talk at PARC.

I have to say that chocolate tasting is a lot of fun. It's a lot like a wine tasting, and you can even supplement the tasting with wine, bread, and cheese (the latter being necessary for cleansing the palette). Prior to this tasting, I knew nothing about chocolate. I still know very little, but at the very least I can now start appreciating some of the more discerning qualities of chocolate.

Warning: chocolate tasting can be expensive to your budget. After we were given a sample of Hershey's to compare with the nicer chocolates, I'm not sure I can taste Hershey's chocolate ever again. Its hard to explain how foul it tastes with the memory of good chocolate still fresh on the mind.

If you want the experience of a chocolate tasting on your own and you live in the Bay Area, you can pick up one of Garoutte's tasting kits at Draeger's.


Tasting notes mixed in with presentation notes

Cocoa %: FDA minimum in milk chocolate: 10%, dark 15%. Semi/bitter chocolates generally have 35%, good darks 65-70%, good milk chocolates: 30-50%. unsweetened: 99%.

Chocolate components: Sugar (possibly dried milk), cocoa solids, cocoa butter. White chocolate: no cocoa solids.

Tasting: texture/appearance/tempered/aroma/taste * Shiny: cocoa butter is well-tempered. nice snap.

Milk chocolate is a recent innovation (1879). Peter and Nestle figured out how to commercialize the production process. Prior to them, most people consumed chocolate as a drink (with sugar and milk). Other chocolate history highlights: * 1585: First shipment to Old World of "chocolatl" * 1847: Joseph Fry makes eating chocolate

Milk chocolate flight: * Green and Black's Organic Milk: smooth, coating * Hershey's milk: gritty, sour, pungent. Sourness is from how they dry out the milk. I can't believe how bad this tastes after tasting the G&B * Valrhona Jivara Lactee: smooth, but not melty, caramely * El Rey Caoba: Thick melt. Not too sweet. Well-balanced, good snap. El Rey's white chocolate not deodorized. Cheap cocoa butter is usually deodorized, but this removes the cocoa essence. * Scharffenberger Milk: bitter, more cocoa-y, thick. Blend. * Cluizel Java: 50% varietal (darkest milk chocolate we tasted). Smooth, soft. Sweet. Bitter finish.

Favorite: Cluizel hands down. Interesting with a great feel and taste.

Cocoa pods: about football size. The insides are full of white slime (baba) and beans. Ferment insides for a week (gets rid of bitterness/astringency). Need warmth (>80 degrees), 300" rainfall/year and midge insects to pollinate. Lots of underbrush is actually good for promoting presence of midge insects -- a lot of farms kept their grounds neat and had low yields.

Theobroma cacao varieties: * Criollo: rarest, most prized * Forastero: hardy, bred for disease resistance, not taste * Trinitario: hybrid Flavor comes from DNA, climate, fermentation, protection, roasting, conching

The dark chocolates: * Guittard: 61%. Smooth and bitter, light toasty finish * Valrhona Manjari: 64% varietal Madagascar. Raisin. Tang. All the taste on the backend, no initial taste. Long finish. Sharp, sweet bitterness. * Cuizel Los Ancones: Varietal 67%. Tastes just like an olive. Interesting, but do you really want olive chocolate? (maybe with a martini) * Galler Noir: smoky, sour. To me there was a rubbery taste. * Castelain Macaibo: tastes marshmellowy. * Scharffenberger Bittersweet: Strong. Tannic * Amadei Porcelana: Most expensive ($1/square). Entirely criollo bean, which is the reason for its $$$. Brittle. Fruity. Not worth the money, barely finished it. * Arriba: 75% varietal. Jasmine. Bitter but not thick-bodied. Short finish. Didn't like very much b/c it didn't leave much of an impression.

Liked the Guittard and Valrhona Manjari the best of the dark chocolate flight, though I really need to taste again to differentiate, as the dark chocolate tasting was fairly spread out, and my taste buds were getting overloaded. We also had wine with this flight.

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