As Americans we have a strong life and work ethic, constantly are running from place to place, picking the kids up, dropping them off, going meeting to meeting and trying to get things done quickly so you can get onto the next. How often do you say, “I don’t remember what I did yesterday…let alone an hour ago”?
Sometimes you just need to find some peace and a getaway. Totally understand. Easy to say and often hard to do. The key is to find greater enjoyment in a moment whether it’s the time when you can actually take 5 minutes for yourself or you’re in the midst of mayhem. Sometimes you just have to laugh at what is going on around you. Seriously? Yes, life’s occurrences can look ridiculous! You’re crying about what??
So take a breath and look around for the beauty in the moment. Notice what you see, feel, smell, hear and taste. Is it the sun gleaming through the window, the moisture in the swirling storm, the smell of the salt in the air, the great song playing that takes you back in time or the lovely spice in your salsa? Don’t overlook the simple things that can bring you solace and a truly enjoyable moment. Those moments are ones that are most often remembered.
Drinking wine and eating chocolate are frequently moments and experiences missed…and you most likely don’t know it! Probably because you’re “drinking” and “eating” and not using all of the senses nature gave to you! If you’re answering “It tastes like wine” and “it tastes like chocolate” when asked…you need to step back and change the way you approach them both.
Since most people know less about chocolate than wine, we are going to go through the proper way to enjoy and appreciate the simplicity of a single piece of chocolate. In fact, by using all 5 senses you’ll begin to learn how to differentiate good chocolate from the bad. Time to do a tasting! Choose your chocolate and follow below…
Engage the senses
The surface of the chocolate should be shiny and free of blemishes, streaks and bloom (a hazy finish) which can mean it’s too old, left in the heat, has had been exposed to water or humidity or not processed (tempered) correctly.
Rub the chocolate between your fingers. It should feel smooth with touch and not feel sticky or gritty. The warmth of your finger will cause the chocolate to melt and release aromas. These aromas will enhance the intensity of your tasting.
When broken or bitten, the chocolate should make a snapping sound. You can really tell a lot about the quality of the chocolate just by the snap. This indicates the chocolate is well-tempered (processed correctly). High quality chocolate produces a sharp, crisp sound. In fact, the higher the cacao percentage (the darker the chocolate) and the better the tempering, the louder the snap.
Hold the chocolate below your nose and rub it between your fingers to release the aromas of the chocolate. Breathe in deeply as you rub. Your sense of smell will help you to better taste the wonderful flavors that can be present!
Much like wine, you can find the most amazing array of aromas in chocolate! It’s way beyond “chocolaty”. Nutty? Spicy? Fruity? Earthy? There are hundreds of aromas that can be sensed.
It’s good to learn from someone who knows since it may be hard at first to figure individual aromas out and it’s a great experience.
Take a bite only. Don’t put the whole thing in your mouth. Just let it melt on your tongue. No chewing! Make sure to cover all of your taste buds. Is it bitter, sweet, salty or sour? Your sense of smell can certainly help you determine the flavors you’re tasting. Again, what notes do you sense? Black cherries? Fig? Toasted almonds? Woody? Yes, it’s possible….just not so much in low quality chocolates that have little actual chocolate in them! Is there a flavor that lingers after the chocolate is gone?
Good chocolate will exhibit flavors of nuts, wood, caramel, spices and even more complex flavors. It’s said that there are more than 300 different flavors in chocolate!
By engaging all 5 senses, we can transform our chocolate experience into something more meaningful. Yes, all of this in one piece of chocolate! And just imagine doing a chocolate and wine tasting….oh boy!
And where was this “good” chocolate when we were kids? In Europe really. The chocolate landscape in the US has changed so much since then when choices here were truly limited. The chocolate artisan movement began back in the late 1990’s and stems from a number of variables including our new consumerism. We prefer things that are handmade, authentic, customized, simplified and transparent in ingredients and marked by locality instead of mass produced and processed. True and simple. Most live life this way with everything they eat. And chocolate shouldn’t be an exception.
So to quote Ferris Bueller…Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
~Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder ofLuxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.