Because let’s face it, when it comes to chocolate, most of us would prefer to eat it than taste it.
But the benefit of discovering its flavours, from cacao to chocolate, is that you do get to taste all the chocolate you want, at once. It gives you the chance to experiment with flavors and brands you’d never have tried before. It’s a fun way to build up your knowledge about chocolate.
- And when it comes to recommending chocolate for friends, or buying for presents, you’ll know what you’re talking about.
Like a wine tasting, a chocolate tasting will help you appreciate the subtleties in flavor. Unlike wine, you won’t be leaving with a hangover.
Here’s how you can get started.
First and foremost, this is a tasting party, not a munching one. So make sure the tasters you invite who are genuinely interested in trying new tastes (with the reward of eating the chocolate they’ve tasted at the end).
Don’t invite people who will eat everything in sight (although they can after the party is over). And to keep your tasting intimate as well as help your budget, I’d invite 8-10 people maximum.
From cacao to chocolate menu idea
The world of chocolate is so rich and vast, it’s worth researching what’s out there.
Here are a few types of chocolate to try:
- Dark chocolate – The higher the cocoa – 70%+ – the more bitter it is.
- Unsweetened chocolate – Also called cooking chocolate, this is mainly used in cakes, brownies and cookies. Has a very deep flavor.
- Milk chocolate – Taste will vary with this one, based on how low the amount of cocoa is. In the UK, milk chocolate contains only 20% cocoa.
- White chocolate – Not technically chocolate, as it contains no cocoa solids.
- Compare chocolate – By brand (Lindt vs Cadbury); country; Fairtrade vs mass-produced; American vs British.
- Drinking chocolate – Choose what isn’t already in choc-bar form
- Instead of milk, use slightly hot water. Use small cups, for sips
- Handmake your own chocolate – Melt your chocolate, then mix it with other ingredients – like chilli powder! Present these on their own unlabelled plate – and watch your tasters react
How to run your chocolate tasting event
Some of invitation ideas for your chocolate tasting could include: Chocolates in a Photo (Search online to find a photo of different types of chocolate you can glue on the back of your invite card). Chocolate Quotes is another idea; here are a few I love:
“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” – Charles M. Schulz
“The 12-step chocoholics program: Never be more than 12 steps away from chocolate!” – Terry Moore
“After eating chocolate you feel godlike, as though you can conquer enemies, lead armies, entice lovers.” – Emily Luchetti
1) create a Rate the Taste Worksheet
This Rate the Taste sheet lets tasters share their thoughts about what they’re tasting, as they go from cacao to chocolate and back again.
You can adapt an Excel spreadhseet, with columns for flavor, aroma and texture along the top, and ‘chocolate 1’, ‘chocolate 2’, etc, down the left. Then print out copies, and provide pencils for all.
Create sheets with different orders of which chocolate, so people can start at different tables as well as mingle. Hand out your sheets when everyone’s arrived, explaining how it works. Refer to it in the post-tasting section of the party, where tasters can share their experiences.
2) present your chocolate like this
Give each bar its own plate(s) and break it into chunks. Make sure you remove all their labels, to avoid ruining your tasters’ experience.
Number each plate, “chocolate 1”, “chocolate 2”, etc. Display them using table cards that tasters can see. Save the very sweetest types of chocolate for the very last table. Keep all unopened bars far from the room.
Later, at the group share later, you can reveal what they’ve tasted.
What about drinking chocolate?
You can display this on its own table, with each powder in their individual bowls, labelled “Drinking chocolate 1” etc. Add a flask of hot water, mini cups and spoons for stirring. Instead of cacao to chocolate in sequential order, try and mix the powders up so people don’t realise which is dark chocolate and which is milk.
3) decorate your tasting party space
Go for a soft color palate – in white, gold and caramel – to evoke a sensuality and warmth with your party. Cover your tables in a white tablecloth, each with a vase of cut flowers. Display them with a pitcher of drinking water and empty glasses, as well as a basket of plain bread, crackers and other palate cleaners.
Or better yet, highlight the evolution of cacao to chocolate, by starting off with dark colours and expanding them into lighter tones.
If anyone’s hungry, lay on some proper food – especially food that absorbs sugar, like oatmeal, avocados, fish, chicken, sushi. Drinks? Mint tea and water.
Chocolate tasting party favors
Finally, break up any unopened bars and present an assortment of different chunks in little gift boxes, wrapped with ribbon. Include a list of all types, from cacao to chocolate that you’ve used during the tasting, so your guests can follow up on the brands they like.
Tasting image: BinaryApe