This month is all about mint, mint, glorious mint! It started life in the Eastern Mediterranean, but grows like a weed in an English garden which may explain why people have tended to take it for granted. For years it just went in the peas, then it found a new life in Mojitos and Mint Tea, but the nature of the minty taste that comes to mind in all these things is pretty much the same. So you can guess what’s coming… cacao beans all taste different and so do mints!
HOW TO TASTE CHOCOLATE
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.
Let’s start with the Colombian San Agustin 88 because we always start with the chocolate with the highest % cacao and move sweeter. Linger on its dark cherry and damson notes, before heading to Madagascar for the Sambirano 71, still fruity but oh so different – light, bright and juicy. On the opposite side of the flavour wheel you’ll find the Rio Caribe 72 with its complex coffee nutty notes. This is the chocolate I most often turn to for making cakes and brownies because it is simply a classic. Ottolenghi makes his brownies with it, so that must tell you something. Finally we turn to the rich caramel notes of the Surabaya 69, a deep brooding bean for real connoisseurs, and there you have it, you have tasted your way round the world.
For the flavoured bars this month we have the Luscious Orange and Ginger Lime, both made with a Trinitario bean from Baracoa in Cuba, because its honey notes dance beautifully with these ingredients. For all you nut lovers Almendra is a classic – we roast our own almonds because it’s that freshly roasted taste that makes an almond great.
Having suggested that you try the lowest sugar chocolates first, it seems wrong to leave Pistachio Date until last since you can clearly see on the box that it has No Added Sugar. That’s the magic - all the sweetness comes naturally from the fruit and nuts, you won’t miss the sugar, I can assure you.
When you think mint, it is most often peppermint that comes to mind with its high menthol content and strange cooling effect, but the foodier mints have very little menthol and are all about flavour not minty freshness!
Chocolate Mint. Sur del Lago 69 dark chocolate with chocolate mint.
A beautiful chocolate that awakens and plays with the senses. Chocolate Mint is one of the more complex mints with a little characteristic coolness, then layers of mintiness shot through with citrus.
Ginger Mint. Sur del Lago 70 dark chocolate with ginger mint.
This aromatic mint is unusually warm and spicy. It takes mint chocolate to a totally different place, one of dancing fires and ginger mojitos. It’s time for a delicious journey of discovery.