Originally posted by masur
Result from The Academy of Chocolate Awards 2008:
The event is gaining in significance with each passing year. This year the volume of submissions was staggering, a very promising sign. I also think it’s commendable, that in addition to experienced chocolate tasters, the judges included many whose exposure to chocolate was relatively casual. This prevents the awards from becoming too much of an elitist affair.
The number of judges as well as the cross-section of chocolates makes it possible also to give an analysis of actual taste preferences in light of real experience. Scanning the lists, here’s what is clear.
1) There is a strong if not overwhelming preference for spicy flavours – things that are piquant or acid in one sense or another. Mellow, smooth chocolates do not seem to have done as well overall. To use a musical analogy, people prefer lots of treble, high-strung sopranos, and little bass.
2) A corollary in some ways of that is that flatness in finish is deadly. No matter what the initial impression, if the flavour tapers off or becomes monotonic, it will instantly be massively derated. That’s an important consideration, because it means dark roasting will be inherently risky in terms of popular appeal.
3) When it comes to bars, texture is virtually insignificant – a chocolate with poor texture will be forgiven if its flavour is magnificent. But with filled chocolates the reverse applies: texture is paramount, and of greater importance (far greater) than flavour. What is demanded in a filled chocolate is one with a very thin, crisp outer shell and a hyperfluid centre that melts instantly and with no resistance on the palate. When this is achieved, the flavour can approach the immaterial. Any deviation from this, by contrast, brings about instant criticism. Once over that hurdle, yes, flavour matters, but only as a consideration after textural perfection has been achieved.
4) With filled chocolates, again, when it comes to flavour, the preference is for somewhat subdued but highly characteristic taste. It’s desirable to taste of something definite, but strong, bold chocolates are generally found to be overwhelming. Part of this, however, may simply be the effect of texture; inevitably achieving that perfect textural composition mutes flavour to some degree.
5) Noticeable sweetness, in any form, in any chocolate item, is almost inevitably fatal. This makes it difficult for milk chocolate to succeed unless balanced by something with a bitter edge (although note the spectacular exception of the Amedei hazelnut milk chocolate)
Some interesting side observations:
Apparently a lot of the tasters just happen not to like mint very much. Mint flavoured chocolates are conspicuously near-absent from the table of winners. Nuts, also, don’t seem to have done well as flavouring overall. In the filled chocolates, it may be because they compromise that fluid texture. Again, the Amedei exception in the bar chocolates is notable.
Organic submissions are trying hard but are not there yet. Part of this may be who submitted: Pralus didn’t enter AFAIK, and their new organics are a good deal better than most of the rest. Domori unfortunately seems to have exited the market :-( There seems to be an impression among current organic manufacturers that the demand is for very earthy, rustic chocolate. At least among the discerning public, this is not the case.