Let’s take a little moment to think about how to taste chocolate. Most important by far is to make sure your chocolate is at room temperature. That way when you put it in your mouth it will immediately start to melt. Cold chocolate takes much longer to release its flavour, and I find it’s tremendously hard to resist chomping.
Break off a shiny square and listen for the snap that tells you your chocolate has been well tempered, catch the aromas, then pop it in your mouth. Ideally you would let it melt in the centre of your tongue, breathing all the time because it is said that 90% of taste is perceived by the nose.
When you can’t bear the suspense any longer you can start your chomping, and now what you are looking out for is how the flavours are evolving.
A good chocolate will have layers of flavour that break like waves, and the final notes should stay with you for a while, not wash away on a tide of cocoa butter.
When I am making a new chocolate the starting point is always the cacao – the corazón, the heart. Then it is a matter of which ingredients to add to it to bring out or complement its flavour profile. Usually that involves sugar, and what is surprising is that different quantities of sugar bring out different flavour characteristics in the beans.
Let’s start with the San Agustin 88 and San Agustin 70 dark chocolates. In the 88% you catch cherry and damson notes while the 70% is more honeyed with glimpses of red fruits.
The other dark chocolates this month are also on the fruity side of your flavour map, but are very different. Chulucanas 70 has notes of raisins and plums and the Sambirano 71 has juicy summer fruit notes.
The Luscious Orange and Ginger Lime both complement the Baracoa cacao that they are made with in a very particular way. Both have ingredients that dance a natural dance with the honey notes in this cacao. Fine cacaos have such distinctly different flavours that you have to be very precise in your pairings.
Sometimes there is no need to add sugar because there can be enough naturally occurring in the other ingredients. So to make the No Added Sugar bars I have used a light bean from Awajun and relied on all the sweetness coming naturally from the fruit and nuts.
Pistachio Date is therefore a little sweeter than Orange Almond because of the dates.
Do you remember when salt and chocolate was a new thing and sea salt caramel swept the world? Salt brings out the flavours in chocolate like it does in other foods. I always use Cornish Sea Salt for its natural, sweet flavour, its flakes are like little jewels. This month I have gone a little further and added sea weed to the other chocolate. It brings the same kind of minerality as salt but adds incredible, sweet umami notes. Wonderful.
CORNISH SEA SALT. SUR DEL LAGO 70 DARK CHOCOLATE WITH SEA SALT
The flakes of Cornish Sea Salt nestled in this Sur del Lago dark chocolate, open up the softly nutty flavours of this fine Venezuelan cacao. Simply sublime. #62
DEVON KELP & BLACK SESAME. AWAJUN 70 DARK CHOCOLATE WITH PUTTSBOROUGH KELP & TOASTED BLACK SESAME. I harvested this tender young kelp from Putsborough in North Devon. Naturally sweet and packed with umami, it dances in perfect harmony with the smoky notes of the toasted black sesame.