It’s the start of Big Chocolate Tea and we’re very excited for a choc-tastic week of cake sales, tea parties and bake-offs! We spoke to chocolate expert Jennifer Earle who gave us some of her top chocolate tasting tips to share with you all. Jennifer has worked in fine chocolate for more than a decade and is an internationally recognised professional in the industry. Jennifer is often testing out new products, cafes and chocolate shops. She is the founder of two chocola-tea businesses - Chocolate Ecstasy Tour, a guided tour for chocolate fans and Taste Tripper, also based on the principles of introducing people to delicious places, but with self-guided “Explorer Packs”, so you can savour London’s hidden chocolate gems at your leisure. We hope you enjoy reading, and trying (!) these chocolate tasting tips as much as we have.
- The higher the cocoa percentage, the more of the cocoa benefits you’ll consume. Cocoa is thought to contain high levels of antioxidants as well as a wide range of vitamins and minerals. It’s proven to lower blood pressure and improve your mood. In a good quality dark chocolate bar, the only other ingredient you should see is sugar. Other acceptable ingredients are lecithin (soy or sunflower) and vanilla.
- Avoid “dark chocolate” that is black in colour. Even bars with a high percentage of cocoa should not be black. This only happens if the cocoa beans have been burnt during the roasting process or due to another fault or error.
- Vanilla is usually a sign that the beans are not of the best quality. Vanilla can make chocolate taste better and more consistent if the cocoa beans aren’t wonderful.
- If you are tasting different chocolate bars, start with the highest percentage and work your way down. If there are flavoured bars, save the strongest flavours (chilli/mint/coffee) until last.
- Having a nibble of a chocolate bar with a very high percentage of cocoa (80-100%) can help you get accustomed to the taste of dark chocolate – it means a 70% bar can taste quite sweet if you try it next!
- Good quality chocolate bars are always shiny and make a clicking sound when you break a piece off (however there are some poor quality chocolate bars out there which can be shiny and make this noise too).
- The most important indicator of good quality chocolate is that the lingering taste in your mouth is delicious and it lasts for at least ten minutes (of course this only works if you don’t eat anything else in that time!).