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7 things that can ruin your chocolate tasting experience & how to avoid them

Before even saying anything about chocolate or giving you a tasting review of some chocolates, let me show you a list of things that can make it difficult for you to get the most out of your chocolate tasting experience. You might be completely new to craft chocolates or someone who has already started to explore them, either way, you want to make sure that you get what you pay for. But neglecting some (or all) of these points can literally leave you with a bad mouthfeel.

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I listed the main factors that can influence either the flavour of the chocolate itself or your ability to unlock and discover these flavours through your senses. After each point, you will find some tips that can help you prevent these and fully enjoy the chocolate you are tasting.

  1. Strong odours: If you wonder why your favourite chocolate smells and tastes like garlic, curry, smoke or like an old cupboard, then probably you have left it in a wrong place. Bad storage solutions can cause your chocolate to take on other smells and flavours due to its cocoa butter content that carries the original flavours of chocolate but can also act as a magnet to other surrounding odours.
    Solution: Reseal the packaging as much as possible, as it acts as a barrier, or repackage the chocolate in foil and keep it in an airtight box or zip-locked bag.
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  2. Too cold: Chocolate sitting in the fridge can lose the strength of its original flavours and runs the risk of taking on other flavours (see above). In addition, cocoa butter will melt very slowly, so it can take a while to unlock the flavour of the chocolate as you taste it.
    Solution: A plain chocolate bar has a long shelf-life and doesn’t have to be refrigerated. Find a dark, dry and cool place (16-18°C) to store your chocolates. Use plastic boxes or resealable bags to ensure your bars are well protected. Let the chocolates come to room temperature before tasting.
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  3. Too warm: If your chocolate has white spots on its surface, it was probably somewhere too warm (above 25°C). Chocolate melts at a relatively low temperature that causes cocoa butter to rise to the surface (hence the white spots) when it becomes solid again after cooling. This doesn’t alter the flavour, but the texture may become grainy, gritty leaving you with an unpleasant mouthfeel. It is not mould though, so don’t throw it out. If you can’t bear to look at it, just use it up to make a delicious hot chocolate or brownie.
    Solution: If you live in a hot climate, a wine cooler is a good option to store chocolates, as it is not so cold as a fridge and there is less condensation. Otherwise stick to solution #2.chocolate bloom .
  4. Blocked nose: When having a cold or suffering from hay fever, our nose has trouble picking up smells. This leads to a difficulty in tasting flavours as smell is closely linked to taste.
    Solution: Free up your airways to ensure a good cooperation between your smell and taste receptors in your nose and mouth. Also, you can give your nose a break by smelling something different like ground coffee, and then get back to smelling chocolate.
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  5. Numb taste buds: If you are struggling to taste different flavours, maybe your taste buds are numb from what you previously ate or drank. Coffee, tea, spicy dishes, smoking, drinking alcohol can all have a strong and long aftertaste and not letting you taste your chocolate in all its glory.
    Solution: Avoid drinking coffee, tea, alcohol, eating very spicy dishes or smoking before a chocolate tasting to ensure you have a clean palate and maximise your taste buds’ ability to pick up different flavours. Eating tart apple slices, bread cubes or plain polenta, drinking (sparkling) water (at room temperature) all act as a great palate cleansers both before and during chocolate tasting.
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  6. Too much distraction: if the TV or radio is on, or you are doing something else at the same time, it will be harder for you to concentrate on your sensory experience, so you might not be able to detect all the flavour nuances in the chocolate.
    Solution: Cut out any audio-visual or other distraction and concentrate on the chocolate you are tasting using your senses.
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  7. Lack of confidence in your tasting skills: this feeling can stop you from thoroughly enjoy your experience, especially if you are desperately trying to find flavour notes listed on the packaging or mentioned by another taster at the table.
    Solution: Don’t be afraid to express any feelings, thoughts, associations that come up as you taste your chocolate, even if it’s hard to find the words. Tasting chocolate is very subjective and can be influenced by so many factors, that there is no right or wrong opinion. The more chocolate you taste, the easier it will be for you to compare different flavours and to describe them.

Have you ever experienced any of the above issues when tasting chocolate? Do you have any personal tips to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.

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What a ladybird has to do with chocolate

Welcome to my blog. I’m Lilla, a passionate chocolatier currently living in the UK. My goal with this blog is to share with you my passion for chocolate through my tasting experiences, chocolate shop visits, chocolate book reviews, chocolate recipes and some interesting facts about cacao and chocolate.

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Have you ever thought any of the following?

  • Dark chocolate is the devil’s confectionery, it always tastes bitter.
  • I’m not a “connoisseur” of chocolate. Why should I buy expensive craft chocolates if I can’t taste the difference anyway?
  • Craft chocolates are just a hype. These fancy companies just want to earn a lot of money.
  • Chocolate makes you fat, the rest is just good marketing.
  • I can easily eat a bar of chocolate when I’m in a bad mood. These “trendy” craft chocolates are just too expensive for this.
  • I’m afraid to spend a lot of money on craft chocolates and later find out that I don’t like them.
  • I only buy Fairtrade chocolates. Many of these craft bars aren’t even certified and still cost more.
  • I have a food-intolerance to gluten/dairy/nuts/egg/soya etc. or I am vegetarian/vegan. I don’t know whether I can eat these chocolates or not.

If you have answered yes to any of the above statements, then you are in the right place. In this blog, my aim is to help you find answers to your questions related to the chocolate industry.

In this blog, I will help you:

Discover a wide range of craft chocolates from around the world

It’s normal that you feel overwhelmed when you first look at the wide offer of craft chocolates available on the market. This is a booming industry at the moment, and it can seem difficult to find the right chocolates for your own taste. Through my detailed tasting notes and descriptions, I will show you everything that I can about the chocolate in question, from packaging to aftertaste and even things like interviews with the makers, information about stockists, price range and other tasters’ opinions. So, you’ll be able to make an informed choice, and have a higher chance to really like what you will taste.

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Appreciate the different flavours in chocolate and learn how to describe them

When this whole craft chocolate movement started, and I read tasting notes on the packaging of some chocolate bars, I thought the same as you. Seriously? Dark cherries, malt, caramel, red berries, citrus, hazelnut, even things like mushrooms or leather?! No way! This is only a bar of chocolate. Isn’t this just a hype like wine tastings? They just want to make big money by putting fancy words on their packaging.

And then, I compared some widely available chocolates with craft chocolates. And I thought: “Wait a second. There is lemon in this. It tastes like a hazelnut spread. It’s like a handful of sour cherries.” Or simply: “This tastes different than the chocolates I know.” Even if the ingredient list ended after two items (cocoa mass and sugar).

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I will show you how to use your senses to get the most out of your chocolate tasting experience, how to take notes and use visual aids like flavour wheels or tasting cards. You will see how complex the flavour development of chocolate is, what are the defining factors. I will guide you through different tasting exercises like comparisons and blind tastings. And let me tell you some good news: the more chocolate you taste, the better your tasting experience will become over time.

Understand what is “bean to bar”

Until about 6 years ago, I didn’t even know where chocolate comes from. It’s not something we normally learn in school. Maybe because the kinds of chocolates I used to eat on a day-to-day basis were far from what they could be when treated properly so that their amazing values can shine through. This blog will give you information about the origins of chocolate, short history episodes (believe me, nothing boring!), a bit of science, and insights into the different stages of cacao processing from the cacao tree to the packaged bar you are about to open up.

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See behind the scenes of the chocolate industry

You are puzzled by the price difference you see between a supermarket’s own branded bar of chocolate and the so-called artisan creations. You’ve heard that child labour, unfair wages and environmental challenges, growing Asian markets are some of the reasons behind higher chocolate prices. Some people even predict a chocolate shortage as soon as 2020.

I will give you insights into the chocolate industry’s mechanisms so that you can better understand how things work. And more importantly, you’ll be able to make informed decisions about which chocolate to buy if you care for the environmental and socio-economic aspects of cacao farming, and you want to make sure that even your great-grand-children will be able to taste chocolate as you know it.

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Understand health-related information about chocolate, including allergens

Almost every week there is an article popping up on the Internet saying that “Chocolate is good for you” or “Eating chocolate can save you from a heart attack”. Let me do the research for you, and present you with the latest results about chocolate. I explain everything you need to know about ingredients in chocolate, cheaper substitutes or special-diet alternatives.

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About Lilla

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I’m a passionate chocolatier currently living in Cambridge (United Kingdom) with my husband and our son (born in 2016). Even though I’ve always loved chocolate, it was only 6 years ago, when I first saw a chocolatier in action. I was at a chocolate festival and a lady was tempering chocolate on a tiny marble slab, and she made small white chocolate hearts with a lemon-strawberry filling. I was hooked and asked her how she became chocolatier. A few months later I was in her chocolate kitchen learning how to temper chocolate and make different kinds of small chocolates and pralines. But I still haven’t had much of a clue about chocolate, until I started working in a small chocolate shop as a sales assistant. From then on, I dedicated most of my time to read and learn about this incredible world that surrounds cacao and chocolate. Then I was promoted to full-time chocolatier and chocolate course presenter. I even had the opportunity to get training in the atelier of a chocolate shop in Brussels and I took several courses run by École Chocolat simultaneously.

I love eating chocolate, I love talking about chocolate and I love meeting chocolatiers and chocolate makers. And I would like to share this CHOCOLATE LOVE with you through my blog and encourage you to immerse yourself into this wonderful CHOCOLATE WORLD.

P.S.: Why “Little Beetle”? That’s the nickname my mother gave me as a child and because ladybirds are cute. Totally nothing to do with chocolate, but hey! 🙂