The Art of Chocolate Appreciation
By Pooja Bhula
Sanjana Patel, Executive Chef of La Folie, tells Pooja Bhula how to understand the profile of a chocolate and to discern its richness
Clear your palate
To appreciate a chocolate?s true flavours, try it first thing in the morning, when your palate is already clear. If that?s not possible, ensure that you cleanse your palate with cold water, which numbs your taste buds, or neutral fruits like apples. Avoid eating spicy or pungent food right before trying the chocolate as their strong flavours and acidity, will manipulate your perception of the taste.
Discern the chocolate, Get a dark chocolate slab
Store it in a cool, dry place (8- 22 degrees). If the weather requires you to refrigerate it, put the chocolate in an air-tight container so that strong flavours of other foods like meat, onion, etc. don?t travel to the chocolate and hamper it?s original taste.
Defrost it to room temperature
Smell the chocolate and then place it on the centre of your tongue. Don't bite it. Allow the chocolate to melt; as it gradually does, it will release flavours. You?ll be able to detect each?bitter, sweet, sour, spicy.
Signs of A good chocolate
Multiple Flavours: Just as good perfumes have several notes, good chocolates do too, they are never flat, overly sweet or overly bitter. Flavours indicate the richness of the cocoa beans. While beans for commercial chocolates are fermented only for about 6-7 hours, for gourmet ones they are fermented for 3-4 days?so the beans absorb the enzymes, nutrients as well as flavours of the surrounding vegetation. Madagascar chocolates taste of berries that grow there in abundance and Ecuadorian chocolates have a natural, caramel-like taste as their beans are fermented with banana leaves, instead of pesticides.
Good mouth-feel: Even plain gourmet chocolates have additional agents like honey that gives a good mouthfeel and creaminess. You may confuse its flavours with the cocoa?s, so focus on the texture to discern. When beans are conched (ground and smoothened) for about 72 hours, the powder becomes light in weight and blends well, such that the chocolate easily melts in your mouth. Beans of commercial chocolate on the other hand, are conched less; so chocolates made from them require chewing or have a dry, greasy, clotty mouth-feel.