A Guide to Chocolate Tasting and Connoisseurship

Get ready to be launched into everyone’s favourite sweet treat, as Cat Black, chocolate expert, chocolate awards judge and writer, tells FOUR the ins-and-outs of chocolate tasting and connoisseurship. Prepare to drool…

chocoWhat is chocolate? Surely it is that simple sweet indulgence, in wrappers unchanged since childhood, that we reach for when comfort calls. Well yes, but chocolate can be also so much more! In my role as a member of the Grand Jury of The International Chocolate Awards I taste the finest chocolate in the world. And from Ecuador to Copenhagen, from London to Japan, chocolate is having quite some renaissance. Increased knowledge, far better technical kit, and an appetite to reconsider the potential of this universally loved food, has created a gourmet landscape in which better chocolate is being made now than ever before.

We are used to considering wine as both plonk at the local supermarket and something worthy of far greater consideration. Grape varieties and great wine makers are of interest to sommeliers and customers alike. Chocolate connoisseurship is the new kid on the block, but there are striking similarities to that of wine. Influenced by terroir, cacao variety, and fine-tuned processing, finished chocolate has a potential for diverse and complex fine flavours that are thrilling and rewarding to the palate.

Knowledge of cacao varieties is complex, as new sub-species are still being discovered. But broadly speaking 95% of the world’s cacao is what is termed ‘bulk’ cacao, and is never going to yield much complexity of flavour. The remaining 5%, officially termed ‘fine flavour cacao’ is capable of delivering a flavour journey to thrill! I know that the first time I tasted a truly interesting chocolate, my gasps of delight and astonishment bordered on obscene!

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