tasting guide to gourmet chocolates

Chocolate Pairing & Tasting Guide

There is no one correct way to pair chocolate with beer, wine or cheese. We have experimented over the years and have come up with some terrific combinations that we are happy to share with you.

Here are some tasting steps that will help you delve deeper into the flavor combinations of what you are eating. We encourage you to try out your own pairings — you never know what new taste combinations you may discover!

Six Steps to Chocolate Tasting

  1. Appearance:

    Study the look and color of the chocolate. If tempered, it should have a smooth, high-sheen look. If grey/white, then the chocolate has bloomed — the fats or sugars have migrated to the surface of the chocolate leaving a whitish residue. This is due to a change in humidity or temperature (learn more about storing chocolate).

  2. Break:

    Properly tempered chocolate should have a good, clean snap.

  3. Aroma:

    Smell the broken piece. Identify the fragrances. Milk chocolate may have a milky, vanilla smell. Remember that you cannot smell “sweet.” Dark chocolate may have more of a chocolate aroma. Unfermented beans smell like burnt rubber. Beans stored in humid areas can smell like grass or burlap. Beans dried over wood fires smell smoky.

  4. Texture:

    How does the chocolate feel in your mouth? Does it have a quick melt or slow melt? A smooth or chalky consistency?

    Temperature Notes:
    Chocolate melts at body temperature, at the moment you put it in your mouth
    Compound coatings do not melt at body temperature and lack a high cocoa butter content
    A quick melt is desirable

  5. Taste:

    What “notes” do you taste in the different stages (beginning, middle, finish)?

    There are four basic tastes (some say five, including "Umami" -- but this does not apply to chocolate):

    Sweet: at the tip of your tongue
    Sour: along the front sides of your tongue
    Salt: along the back sides of your tongue
    Bitter: at the back of your tongue

    Sweet, sour, salt, and bitter cannot be smelled. Usually, when someone says something smells sweet, they really smell vanilla.

    Here are some commonly used terms in tasting:
    • Fruity/citrus/berry
    • Buttery/sweet (cashews)
    • Moldy/musty/earthy
    • Floral/spicy
    • Brown fruit (raisins/prunes/red fruit)
    • Nutty/buttery (macadamia nuts)
    • Lactic sour (sour cream/cream cheese)
    • Caramel/caramelized or burnt sugar
    • Astringent (unripe fruit)

  6. Evaluate:

    What did you like or dislike about the product?

Now that you know how to really taste chocolate, try pairing it with some different types of beer, wine, and cheese!

Interested in learning more? Find out everything you wanted to know about chocolate, from how it is made to the best way to store it, with Chocolate 101.