Originally posted by Foodpump
For a new guy to this site, I guess I’m pretty ambitious. Although my shop has only been open since last August, I’d like to get more customers in the doors….
What I’d like to do is have a series of chocolate tastings at the shop, but have absolutely no idea how to go about this. …But how would I structure such a tasting for a group of say 15-20?
That depends a good deal upon what it is that you want people to taste. Are you primarily a confectioner, selling chocolates that you make there at the shop filled with various flavours? Or a retailer, selling chocolate bars or (more likely) a mix of chocolate bars and confections?
Acting upon the assumption that it’s the latter, which I’m inferring from what you’ve said, then it also depends on what brands you’re carrying. If it’s a small number, then I suggest first of all that you focus on a single manufacturer and do a cross-section of their bars. If you have a large number of manufacturers, I think choosing a representative bar from each manufacturer would be a better choice for an introductory tasting.
Don’t have too many chocolates, either – more than about 4-5 gets overwhelming very quickly indeed. Choose the best you have in the shop: you want to make the optimum first impression. Ideas like demonstrating the difference between good and bad chocolate through side-by-side tastings can come later.
Give a short introductory blurb, but be brief: 5-10 minutes maximum. A short description of the most prominent flavour characteristics is the most useful I think. I have classified the flavours into 4 broad classes, roughly fruity, spicy, earthy, and treacley. That may be a good enough level of detail for the moment.
If you’ve read previous posts then you’ll know that I advocate a specific tasting style for a truly formal test: use 50g chocolate, smell first until you’ve captured everything that you can in the aroma, only taste once you’re at that point, take a large initial bite, focussing on initial flavours here, then smaller bites to evaluate length, finishing with texture appreciation. In a semiformal setting, however, this isn’t necessary nor is it practical. You should, however, provide people with enough chocolate per sample at least that they don’t feel like they’re getting a brief hint. Thus a 5g square is much too little. If you were doing 4 chocolates I’d say allow each taster 25 g chocolate per sample. They don’t have to eat it all, but you want enough that they don’t feel short.
Definitely guide people through the process of tasting, and do so strongly with the first chocolate tasted. You can adapt the procedure I talked about above by simply scaling down the sizes, but do go with a larger initial taste followed by smaller bites. It’s best, I think, to have all in the group try the same chocolate at the same time, and give them a lot of time to appreciate each chocolate before moving on.
Cleanse everyone’s palate with hot, very soupy polenta between chocolates. It’s very effective at killing the taste of the previous chocolate (and also seems unusual, thereby professional).
Don’t serve alcohol with the chocolates themselves, but you might want to consider doing so after concluding the tasting portion. Be sure that after the tasting proper people have time to ask questions, and of course to buy the chocolate itself.
Good luck – let us know how it goes!