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November 19, 2004
I’m new to this forum and am totally amazed at all the information that is available here! I’m sure these questions have already been answered elsewhere, but I’ve been unable to find the answer so I figured I’d ask again. First of all, BEANS! As far as I can tell, there are 3 major types (criollo, forastero and trinitario), with lots of subcategories in each major group. What I would like to know is, is there a “flavor profile” that is associated with each bean? For instance, if I don’t care for a too-fruity chocolate, is there any easy way for me to tell which chocolates to avoid if I know the type of bean? Or is the flavor more a result of how the beans are processed? If so, is there a “flavor profile” that can be associated with each company? Having a handy chart with this sort of info would be TREMENDOUSLY helpful, if this type of info even exists!
Secondly, can anyone recommend an array of chocolate bars that a newbie should try in order to get a good broad idea of what is out there? I need to educate my palate! I am fairly familiar with Lindt 70% and 85%, but that’s pretty much where my knowledge ends. My experience with other find chocolate is mostly as couverture on truffles, etc. Where do I start?
August 1, 2006
Well, generally there are certain flavors regarded as characteristic of certain beans, but an actual flavor profile completely descriptive of each type (Criollo, Trinitario, Forastero) is far too broad to apply individually. This is due to other facotrs, such as origin, bean handling (roasting, fermentation, etc.), manufacuturer, and the extreme variations and varieties of the beans themselves. And deviations exist as well, so it’s hard to really prescribe a particular profile to each type. However, very broad and vague generalizations can be made, but as you taste more chocolates you’ll understand the characteristics of the beans used.
A brief crash course:
Criollos are very fine and delicate flavored beans, which add depth of flavor to a chocolate. Criollo cacao trees have low yields and are more susceptible to disease, so as a result, their use in chocolate is at a minimum except in a lot of premium bars, such as Cluizel, Domori, etc. Forasteros are “bulk beans,” meaning that they are predominantly used in blends. They are extremely bitter and require long roasting times to remove the bitterness, but yet, at the same time, it’s this very process that removes a lot of the flavor. They do, however, provide a solid chocolate flavor and are the basis for many blended bars. Trinitario is used for flavor as well and has higher yields than Criollo. So as a result, a lot of chocolate will be predominantly Forastero for strength and richness, whereas Criollos and Trinitarios are used for flavor. However, as I mentioned earlier, many brands make bars entirely out of Criollo and Trinitario, and the flavors can be quite enlightening and interesting.
For fruity chocolate, it depends on what kind of fruitiness you want to avoid. Several different fruits are inherent flavors of chocolate, such as orange, cherry, and pear. Madagascar chocolate has a characteristic citrus and alcohol flavor, and of course, it is magnified to different levels depending upon region, bean, and brand. If you’re looking for a non-fruity chocolate, then go for bars from Ecuador, Columbia, Ghana, Java, mainly areas that grow Forastero cacao (or Arriba). Also, stay away from Scharffen Berger and most Valrhona bars, as these brands roast lightly, and thus their chocolate has a very fruity flavor. The only Valrhona chocolates I would recommend to you if you’re trying to avoid fruitiness is Gran Couva and Caraibe.
It’s really hard to cover all the basics without rambling on incessantly, and a lot of the information is actually posted in this forum.
Some bars I recommend you try:
Pralus Pyradmide du Tropique – it contains bars made entirely from one type of bean from one country; also, Pralus is a dark roaster, so not only will you be able to discern the differences between beans and origins, you’ll get an idea of what a dark roast does to a chocolate; also, not fruity but very “dark” and “caramelized” flavors
Chocovic – although not the best representation of origin bars, their chocolate is still a good lesson in bean and origin differentiation; try each bar, Guyave (Trinitario), Ocumare (Criollo), Guaranda (Forastero)
Valrhona – for fruity chocolate with incredible texture; Guanaja and Gran Couva are perhaps their best efforts
Amedei – iCru sampler; another good lesson in origin chocolates
That’s it for now. It’s getting late, I’m getting tired, and my bed is getting pretty tempting. Ciao….
April 24, 2004
As Monte briefly touched, the manufacturers roasting style also has profound influence on the taste, which is so characteristic that it dominates over the “origin” taste. Some general notes:
Valrhona: Acidic, with profound red fruits and slightly spicy.
Cluizel: A liquor taste with sligh citrus and iron in the end.
Amedei: A strong raisin/fruit taste which is dark in the beginning and end. Strangely enough, not very fruity despite the raisin.
If you like dark, not-so-fruity chocs, Montes recommendations are good. Also try Cluizels Amer 72, which is an exception from the generally fruity style of cluizel. An try Pronatecs 71 Nero, a rea killer when it comes to dark, slightly spicy choc.
My name is Polarbear and I am a chocoholic…
April 29, 2004
damn, monte pretty much covered it.
i would add: avoid most madagascar bars, they tend to be fruity. some famous examples: ampamakia by valrhona, madagascar by domori and manjari by valrhona.
i consider cluizel’s maralumi to be very fruity and amedei as well (in contrast to polarbear’s taste).
i would go for:
pralus (now i know what a dark roast is, monte
that chart would be a good idea. got the time for some research, asmoke?
November 19, 2004
Wow! Thanks for your quick responses – I’ve got more suggestions than I know what to do with! I’ve got plenty of TIME for research, it’s my wallet and my waistline I have to worry about! To add an interesting twist to my questions, however (and to warn you about the possible fallacies in any research I might do), I should tell you that I have no sense of smell, or rather, a very limited one. According to what I’ve read, I taste things normally, except things that are entirely scent based (most herbs, etc). However, I know that I have a hard time appreciating subtleties in wine and that sort of thing, so I imagine my sense of chocolate will be similarly impaired. Do you find that the flavors you taste in fine chocolates (I’ve read of everthing here – fruit, ash, tobacco, wood, cognac, coffee just to name a few!) are aromatics rather than actual flavors? That’s probably hard to say for someone who smells normally – let me know your thoughts, if any!
April 29, 2004
well, take your time and post your results. i think your wallet will suffer more than your waistline if you stick to good chocolate with a good cocoa content.
i have difficulties along the same lines as you do. my sense of taste and smell is sometimes impaired, but i try to make the best of it. enjoying a chocolate should count most. all of the other fine details come second for me.
what do you mean by aromatics and actual flavors?
November 19, 2004
By aromatics, I mean things like herbs that really have no flavor (that is, nothing that is discernable by your taste buds). Their “flavor” properties are almost entirely scent based. Because my sense of smell is so impaired, I really can’t tell the difference between basil and oregano, for example, either by smelling them OR tasting them, because their “flavor” is entirely aromatic. However, though I can’t smell spoiled milk, I can taste that it’s spoiled – I assume because the flavor is caused by something that affects the taste buds. This is all very unscientific, I know – it’s just years of observation rather than any real research. It will be interesting to see how it affects the way I taste chocolate, for sure!
April 29, 2004
well, i think that the tastes you find in chocolate might be some of this and some of that, like most tastes. you would definitely benefit more from a nose, but without using this sense you will still have something to look forward to with good chocolate.
it would be interesting to hear what you have to say about that once you’ve tried some. please keep us posted.
August 1, 2006
Interesting that you bring this up. Taste and smell are the only two senses completely chemical in nature and hence can detect actual chemical molecules. Smell can only detect gaseous molecules (in the air), whereas taste can detect molecules dissolved in a liquid (in the food itself or in your mouth). Flavor is then a combination of odors our nose detects and of tastes that our taste buds detect. The olfactory receptors in our nose can differentiate among thousands of different odors and contribute a whopping 80% of all flavor. Remember that the mouth and nose are connecred, so via mastication gaseous molecules released in the mouth travel up the nasal cavity; additionally, swallowing creates a vacuum in the nasal cavity that draws air up from the mouth and into the nose. So, as you can see, our sense of taste is relatively dull, and indeed, much of what we “taste” is actually reliant upon our sense of “smell.” It’s the combined stimuli of taste and smell that reach the brain which causes certain reactions among people, and indeed these reactions vary according on a personal basis. This also brings up another issue regarding man’s preference of sweet foods over bitter foods, but that’s another thread.
Roasting time definitely contributes to a chocolate’s flavor as well. Certain beans can withstand longer roasting times and indeed require this to fully maximize the flavor. Conversely, some beans, such as Porcelana, need a shorter time to avoid killing off the wonderful flavors. Certain brands have different roasting times, and to taste the same type of chocolate (origin or bean type) from each brand can be an interesting lesson at how roasting can effect the taste. Look up my post about the Chuao.