Friday, August 21, 2009

Step 3 to Becoming a Chocolate Connoisseur

In Step 1, I learned how chocolate was made by witnessing it first hand at a factory. In Step 2, I learned a chocolate shop owner taught me about the different qualities of chocolate from the world's regions of origin. Here, in Step 3, I will host a tasting of what many chocolatiers consider to be the finest chocolate in the world.

The biggest shopping spree of my Italy trip earlier this year was at the airport. Stocking up on foreign chocolate at Duty-Free prices made for a much larger carry-on than what originally passed through security. I bought some of my favorites, but the most prized purchase was a box of Amedei Chocolate, 36 napolitaines from 6 different regions of origin. This would provide the perfect opportunity to experience first hand what different regions truly have to offer in their beans. Even better was the fact that each chocolate was 70% cacao, meaning there were less variables for my taste buds to consider. And, since I'm a family man, I decided I could host a tasting with 4 of my kin.

Soon after my return stateside, my parents, my brother, my sister-in-law and I gathered together on comfy chairs to taste our way around the world...or at least the agrarian part that was within 20 degrees of the Equator. First, we snickered as we read aloud the verbosely-written instructions from the Amedei website on conducting a tasting. Then I explained my instructions: (1) smell the chocolate first, (2) do not eat the whole napolitain in one bite so it can later be compared with others and (3) pause together between chocolate to verbalize our reactions. I also presented strawberries for cleansing the palate between chocolates. They may have laughed at the idea, but they agreed.

At a later date, I had a private ceremony where I ate the 6th and final napolitain from each region, nibbling in a different order and recording my own reactions to compare with those documented at the family tasting. Enjoy our attempts to articulate, our poeticisms and our often contradictory opinions! (The italicized sections are what was printed on the labels.)

Venezuela - Flowery aroma with a strong, sweet flavour. Excellent aromatic harmony and a highly elegant long-lasting aftertaste. A great chocolate.
**My sister-in-law's favorite** **My favorite in Round 2**
Bitter aftertaste. Maybe some fruit/citrus. No change in flavor. A dancer on point shoes. Pops of bold flavor between the sweet, like ice cream with hunks of different stuff.

Trinidad - Refined aroma with a pleasant impact on the taste buds. A classic chocolate with a strong character.Creamier than Venezuela, but gets bitter. More arch to the flavor. Earthier. Delicate. Harsh taste in middle. Creamy, harsh, bitter. Almost smoky.

Madagascar - Delicate, inviting aroma with a scent of roasted hazelnut. Truly creamy with a refreshing aftertaste.Nut taste. Soft. NOT a refreshing aftertaste. Starts bitter but gets subtly sweeter. Seemed regular. [Editor's note: Gasp!] Not much sugar. Almost typically semisweet. Wood.

Jamaica - Marked fragrance of wood with herbal scents. A powerful chocolate with a strong personality.
**My brother's favorite**
Wood. The sweetest. The strongest/loudest. Like eating a flower. Jump of sweetness at the end. Wood. Earthy. Sweet follow-up.

Grenada - Delicate aroma of cocoa with a flowery, slightly spicy tone. Creamy and very elegant.**My mom's favorite** **My favorite in Round 1**
Flavor full of spice. Not as bitter. Bitter hints in the middle, but not the aftertaste. Creamy, but not much taste. Spices. Not as aggressive, not as much punch as the others. Fuses bitter and sweet.

Ecuador - Extremely intense fragrance with a strong scent of cocoa. Pleasantly long-lasting aroma.
**My dad's favorite**
Pleasant, even flavor. Consistent. Creamiest. Plumpest. Acidic. Fruity. Like a chocolate Easter bunny (or Pasqua pigeon).

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