Tips on proper chocolate tasting

TCHO's tips on how to taste chocolate:

  1. Smell is 90% of taste. To smell your chocolate, you should start out by giving it a little massage. By warming up the chocolate, you release some of the scent that's been locked in, and you also get your taste buds ready to receive the chocolatey goodness. Different smells can indicate different parts of the world, and even specific bean breeds. What do you smell? Let your brain make associations, even if they aren't logical. Does your chocolate smell like Muir Woods? Your grandma's cranberry sauce? A lavender bush? Go with it.

  2. Look at the consistency of the chocolate's color. Is it even? Is the chocolate shiny? The shinier a chocolate, the better it's been tempered (tempering is the process that lines up the chocolate molecules into a crystal lattice). Is there any white, powdery- looking stuff on the top of your chocolate? This is called bloom, and happens when chocolate isn't tempered correctly.

  3. Listening to your chocolate is more important than you might think. And the sound your chocolate makes is also related to the molecules in it. When they're all lined up (and shiny), it's harder to break them apart. So when you break good chocolate apart, it should make a clean, bright, snapping sound.

  4. Texture is a big deal, so how does the melting chocolate feel in your mouth? Waxy? Smooth? Gritty? Smooth usually means good, but there really is no right or wrong here; if you enjoy something, don't listen to anyone who tells you it isn't "good."

  5. How does your chocolate taste? If chocolate is overly sweet or vanilla-flavored, it more or less defeats the whole point of eating chocolate, which, ultimately, is to taste chocolate. So what does the chocolate taste like? Is it bright? Bitter? It might help to work your way from generalities to specifics. What other foods does the chocolate remind you of? How does the flavor change as the chocolate melts and dissipates? Do the flavors interact in different ways over time?

  6. The taste of chocolate matures over a tasting session, and after the chocolate is gone there are still opportunities for taste. The length of a chocolate aftertaste, or "tail" as it's called, is an indication of quality, as long as you enjoy the tail, of course. Is the aftertaste different from the way the chocolate tasted when it was present? Is it woodier now? Drier? Did the chocolate improve or deteriorate with mouth-time?
About TCHO Chocolate Factory
TCHO Ventures
Pier 17
San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: 415.981.0189

  • This 20,000 square foot factory, the only chocolate factory in SF, has just been completed and is capable of producing 4000 metric tons of premium chocolate per year. That's enough to fill 200 twenty-foot shipping containers with molten goodness.

  • This factory won't be open to the public until late fall, we'd like to take Leigh on a behind-the-scenes tour with TCHO founder and chief chocolate officer Timothy Childs. He's a former space shuttle technologist turned chocolatier.

  • TCHO makes flavor-driven chocolate from scratch (cacao beans grown in South America and Africa). This is a process most people know little about, but can be explained pretty quickly in the factory with visuals. The new factory has large vats and a long molding line and wrapping area (think "I Love Lucy").

    About Timothy Childs, Co-Founder and Chief Chocolate Officer
    Timothy leverages his experience as a serial entrepreneur, super taster and inventor to engage a multidisciplinary community around the art and science of making the world's best chocolate. As a founder and Chief Chocolate Officer at TCHO, Timothy is the creative force behind the company's vision and strategy, including TCHO's Flavor-driven approach to chocolate making as well as TCHOSource, the company's project to improve livelihoods and generate prosperity throughout the cocoa value chain.

    Prior to founding TCHO, Timothy launched the successful retail brand Cabaret Chocolates, where he co-pioneered single-origin marketing with distribution through national outlets. He is also the founder of early stage companies in the Internet and computer graphics industries and also co-founded VeRGe and the Web3D RoundUP. Before becoming hooked on chocolate, he developed machine vision systems for NASA's Space Shuttle program.

    Timothy is a sought-after speaker whose other obsessions include community building, artistic and cultural movements, paragliding and multi-camera video time-lapse projects.

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