“Ask Matt Caputo” is an ongoing feature where Matt answers commonly asked questions from the market. In conjunction with Chocolate Week, he discusses how to taste chocolate like a pro and the one key component: focus.
Q: What is the Best Process to Taste Fine Chocolate?
A: I think most “experts” put so much emphasis on the methodology that it can suck the fun right out of tasting chocolate. You hear things like, “Don’t chew,” “Put the chocolate on the front of your tongue,” “…the back of your tongue,” etc. This is all crazy to me. The texture on your tooth is part of the satisfaction of eating not only chocolate, but all food. Why deprive yourself of part of the pleasure? Additionally, different parts of your tongue are for different things. You’ve all heard it: saltiness and sweet towards the front, acidity on the sides, bitterness in the back, and savory in the middle. Your palate would be very bored without any one of those tastes so why focus chocolate on just one area?
No, I say we all have the equipment to taste, and nature will take its course to allow us to get the most out of it if we just focus. Whether for a professional analysis or just pleasure, focus is the key to tasting chocolate. In our busy lives it is all too common for us to shovel food into our mouths and wolf it down without really being present enough to describe what we are experiencing.
Slow down. Look first. The eyes take the first bite. What tints of color do the chocolate exhibit? Then before you eat, smell. Over 90% of what we consider taste is actually our sense of smell, so prime the pump. Chew, but don’t wolf it down. Use your teeth to get the satisfaction of snap but don’t just let your reflexes swallow too fast. Let it melt on your tongue by working it all around your tongue and roof of your mouth. Suck air in through your mouth and out through your nose.
Now, you can swallow, but it does not end there. The flavor will continue to develop. A lot of our taste is experienced after swallowing—little particles coming up through your throat and continuing to titillate your senses via this retronasal taste. So despite the fact that “eating” is over once you swallow, the experience continues, so by all means continue to be present. Don’t let the mind wander. See how the flavor continues to evolve and change. Then, do it all again. And again. And again. This is how to taste chocolate. Or anything for that matter.
Disclaimer: While Matt Caputo is a Certified Cheese Professional and specialty food fanatic, he is not a medical professional, doctor, or certified nutritionist. Please consult with your doctor or other qualified health care professional before making any healthcare decisions, diagnostics or treatment decisions based on Matt’s answers.