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Assessing a chocolate bar...
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aguynamedrobert
California, USA
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January 16, 2007 - 11:05 am
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Hello Everyone,
I was just wondering what everyone's criteria was for assessing a chocolate bar. For me I do not rate a bar as much for its appearance(steaks, air bubbles, etc.) but only rate it on smell, mouthfeel, and taste.

I go through to find the individual flavors of the chocolate and try to score it but when it comes down to seeing what I think is a good eating chocolate I use this method...

I put 4 bars of chocolate on my desk next to my computer. First chocolate bar to disappear wins(whichever entire bar is consumed first)...it sounds unrefined but once I look hard into it, it comes down to wether I would eat the bar for pleasure and I think that is a good guide...

What do you guys think on the subject? What is the most important thing in a chocolate bar when it comes to ranking them...

Have a good one everybody,
Robert
http://www.chocolateguild.com

Robert

Some Chocolate Guy http://www.chocolateguild.com
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ChemicalMachine
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January 16, 2007 - 5:14 pm
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Your method would not work for me. I am satisfied by only a few squares from my favorite bars, but lesser bars require me to consume a larger quanity before I am satisified.

Also, I find that my preferences greatly change based on setting. I prefer different bars in the morning than in the evening, different bars in the summer than in the winter, etc.

I once consumed two 100 g bars of chocolove 77% in one day...

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Hans-Peter Rot
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January 16, 2007 - 6:29 pm
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I don't like to view chocolate bars as competing in a race like that. As ChemicalMachine noted, some days I am better sated by a certain bar than on others. Weather, of course, affects this too, in addition to my own personal desires at the time. Do I want acidity, boldness, woody, fruity, etc.? There are so many variables to consider.

For me, the overall rating of a chocolate is not reliant upon pure hedonistic pleasure as yours seem to be. A detailed inspection of the reviews listed on this site will surely reveal this. But if things operated in my universe as they do in yours, then surely many bars I found to be too weak and uncharacteristic would be ranked highly simply because I could eat massive amounts of them without feeling weighed down or satisfied. They are just that, though: easy to eat, which usually means they are not chocolates I want to sit down with and savor slowly like a fine wine.

I don't like to gobble chocolate mindlessly. I save my favorite chocolates for times when I know for certain I can enjoy them fully. This sort of pleasure is more appropriately elicited from the finest of the fine, which in my opinion, are chocolates that are to be tasted slowly and shared with others, then discussed.

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aguynamedrobert
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January 16, 2007 - 7:40 pm
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Hum...well I must just have a different palate for chocolate then...whenever I do tastings like that (after I have done a detailed tasting)...I enjoy the complex bars far more than the sugary, soft, dull, or just normal bars. Sometimes I get bars that just have an even taste like the Divine bar that I find that I like. But for the most part I do not enjoy just the normal bar in just the normal snack on settings...I enjoy the bar that would get ranked higher in a detailed tasting...but who knows sometimes that is different.

Robert
http://www.chocolateguild.com

Some Chocolate Guy http://www.chocolateguild.com
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Alex Rast
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January 17, 2007 - 12:23 am
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quote:


Originally posted by aguynamedrobert

Hello Everyone,
I was just wondering what everyone's criteria was for assessing a chocolate bar. For me I do not rate a bar as much for its appearance(steaks, air bubbles, etc.) but only rate it on smell, mouthfeel, and taste.


Primacy for me is on the character of the flavour - specifically, how close of an approximation is it to the pure chocolatey flavour? Understandiing that most chocolates don't actually hit that quintessential flavour head-on but rather orbit it at various distances, a chocolate with lots of interesting characteristics well-distributed around the centre-point will also rate highly.

My own particular biasses lean towards one side of the flavour spectrum, though. It's possible to divide chocolate flavour roughly into 4 quadrants, which again for purposes of description we can label as fruity (especially the red fruits which tend to prevail), molasses or sugary (they don't taste of sugar as such nor need to be particularly sweet but have that very clear heavy-bodied flavour), earthy/woody, and spicy/tobacco. I personally tend to favour the molasses/sugary type - of which Chuao is the ultimate exemplar and Arriba is an archetypal varietal. These chocolates tend to have the greatest boldness and intensity. I've found that as a group, chocolate connoiseurs tend to lean towards slightly off-axis fruity - hovering around a strawberry-like taste (the extremes of the fruity spectrum are close to cherry, currant, raspberry, etc. Strawberry is definitely closer to centre). The everyday consumer often has a preference for earthy/woody - but that's familiarity: it's the flavour of the Ivory Coast/Ghana chocolates which prevail in the mass market.

After character flavour intensity is next. A mild chocolate will always rate lower to me than a bold, powerful chocolate of similar characteristics. However, if intensity comes at the expense of bitterness, then far from being a positive, it's a major negative, and it must be said that bitterness for me always causes a severe derating and is the single greatest defect a chocolate can possess.

As far as the breakdown of importance aroma/flavour/texture for me it's roughly 60% flavour, 30% aroma, 10% texture. I did a linear least-squares regression on all my ratings in order to arrive at that division (having initially assumed 50-35-15).

The other thing is when it comes to assessing a chocolate, a 50g sample is a mandatory minimum. With anything less, you don't catch the full evolution of flavour and may miss out on important characteristics. It's fascinating to see, for instance, how some chocolates that taste very pleasant initially quickly become lifeless and dull, tedious, while others reveal new and interesting details, and still others just bowl you over with how their basic flavour goes on and on (as you might guess it's the 3rd group I think of as best)

On the satisfaction-versus-quantity thing, I think it goes like this. Some bars require enormous amounts to feel any sense of satisfaction, and in fact always leave you undersatisfied. This is the "easy-to-eat" bar which like others have said I don't rate particularly highly. A second group is for particular reasons highly addictive but still leaves you unsatisfied at some vague nagging level. These are the "fixation" group which are good but not great. There is a group which only requires a small amount to make you feel satisfied, and which it seems somehow crude to eat in massive quantities. This is the "precious" group which can be great but I think is in the lower rather than the upper tier of greatness. Then there are the chocolates that satisfy in small quantities but also by their nature make you want to eat more - and that you can consume ad infinitum. These are the "awe-inspiring" chocolates which are truly great. Finally, there is a level above even that, which evokes the same reaction as the previous group but possesses one additional quality - a sense of genuine surprise and amazement each time you try it at how good it really is. These are the "sublime" chocolates which somehow the mind can't capture and remember their greatness and represent a level above the limits of the imagination.

As for experiencing, I like the get-as-much-at-once-as-you-possibly-can approach. My goal is to get the maxiumum possible intensity in the mouth. Of course, that's easiest when the quantity of chocolate you have on hand is large, but there is nothing crude or unsophisticated about this - the objective is not quantity as an end in itself but rather in pursuit of maximising the intensity achieved.

Alex Rast
Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com

Alex Rast Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com
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