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Bar tasting techniques
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Alex Rast
Manchester, United Kingdom
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January 24, 2007 - 5:54 pm
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Topic split from:

"Gobino: Monte, are you the victim of hidden bloom?"

http://www.seventypercent.com/.....IC_ID=1096

by martinc


quote:


Originally posted by martinc

Alex, your large piece technique is very interesting, and I shall be experimenting with this. My only reservation is that as most consumers won't be eating this, it could give a skewed view of chocolates that doesn't relate to general experience.


Yes, I very much doubt many people literally try to cram chocolate in. However, there are differences in typical consumer behaviour. Some take big bites, others small, others nibble. What your experience will be depending on your eating style is naturally going to be different.

There is a degree of playing-it-safe overkill here. I don't want to miss any flavour nuance so I take as much as possible, but there's probably a limit below the as-much-as-physically-possible line where there's no differerence anyway - where you won't notice anything more. However, not knowing where that limit is for me and having not experimented with that, I don't take risks with new bars experimenting with a variable that might make me miss something. I know the effect only in broad terms - in the sense that I've tasted individual squares and missed things, then later tasted a much larger amount and found them (or vice versa on the order of tasting size) However, sooner or later I'll have to find a standard "calibrated" bar with clear flavour characteristics and test various in-the-mouth quantities to find out that line. There's probably an intermediate phase, too, where you get some but not all of the nuances.

As you know, I did experiment in the past with *total* quantity per tasting and found out that at 50g you reach max-out on qualities detected. Seems sensible to do the same experimentation with amount per bite.

quote:


I'd suggest that should be kept in mind when tasting, so the technique is a useful reference, but should be balanced with how small pieces taste.


Yes - that's how I use it: as a reference. It's not intended to capture the qualities of the subjective experience but rather what the flavours are irrespective of personal preference or experience. Usually for the subjective experience I rely much more heavily on what develops through the length.

quote:


It might be good to get another thread going on this, as it is of great interest, and otherwise we might have to moderate ourselves 😀


Good idea. What do you think is the appropriate forum?

Alex Rast
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Alex Rast Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com
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Martin Christy
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January 25, 2007 - 12:07 am
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Does a 5g tasting square do it, size wise?

Martin Christy
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Eshra
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January 25, 2007 - 12:22 am
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This is one of my complaints of Amedei. Amedei offers their origins in 5 gram squares. I have never felt that 5 grams was enough for me to capture all of the nuances a given chocolate has to offer.

Domori, however, has their origins in 8 gram squares (I think), which, to me, has always been much more fulfilling.

Another thing I dislike about the Amedei origin squares is that they are so thin. I feel that thinness can also play a part in tasting--thicker pieces being better for presenting full flavour-profiles.

Sean

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Martin Christy
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January 25, 2007 - 12:27 am
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I agree thickness can effect mouth feel and therefore sensation.

Do you mean you eat a whole Domori 8g at one go?

Almost every other maker uses that 5g size, btw.

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Eshra
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January 25, 2007 - 1:03 am
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I do not understand the reasons for using 5 grams. It seems very arbitrary to me.

This is how I do a tasting with a 'tasting square':

1. I unwrap the square, viewing its colour and sheen. It is hard to get a true sense of the appeal, as it is such a small sample.
2. I take in the aroma, then break the square in half, thereby allowing me to take in the aroma more deeply. I find that by breaking chocolate, I release aromas. When I smell the chocolate, I do as I do with wine--I really get it close to my nose.
3. I insert both halves into my mouth. By breaking the chocolate in half, I have increased the surface area, thereby releasing more flavours as my tongue dances around the morsels.
4. Then I do one of two things -- I either quickly break the chocolate in my mouth into little pieces before really 'tasting' the chocolate, or I simply allow it to melt, allowing the melted product to slowly coat my mouth.

Sean

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Martin Christy
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January 25, 2007 - 1:13 am
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I'm not sure of the source, but I think it is quite traditional. I can remember eating 'neopolitans' as a kid. Maybe Terry's. As if they were something classy.

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Chrissie
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January 25, 2007 - 12:04 pm
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I agree, the 5g squares are far too small, Domori's 8g squares are a far better size. They are thick enough to allow a longer melt than the 5g but not too cumbersome an amount to hold in the mouth at once for an average consumer.

I think the 5g square exists mainly because most mainstream consumers see fine dark chocolate as an aristocratic delicacy and these fragile delicate squares help perpetuate this image. They also may feel that because of the extra expense involved it would seem overly indulgent to eat large amounts of these prized chocolates. Junk chocolate bars and confectionery are things you gorge on, whilst fine dark chocolate should be savoured with restraint. These are all associations I had before discovering true fine chocolate tasting.

Personally, I find around 15g at once to be ideal for me when tasting. Less and it melts too quickly but more and I find myself struggling as it melts and reaches the back of my throat, I end up having to swallow most of the liquid chocolate to keep from choking! When tasting a chocolate that only comes in 5g squares I will usually put 2 or 3 squares in my mouth at once, perhaps broken into smaller pieces first.

I have experimented with the thickness of chocolate bars for tasting and I find 8 - 10mm to be the ideal thickness. Domori's style and cru bars are great because the lack of division into squares means you can break off any size of piece you want. Amedei's Toscano Black bars are also an ideal thickness and have a nice large square size, about 10g.

Christine

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ellie
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January 25, 2007 - 1:08 pm
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One can not deny then that size of the mouth matters [;)]

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Hans-Peter Rot
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January 25, 2007 - 9:00 pm
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So what they say must be true: size matters. [;)] (I couldn't resist!)

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Alex Rast
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January 26, 2007 - 1:04 am
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quote:


Originally posted by Eshra

This is one of my complaints of Amedei. Amedei offers their origins in 5 gram squares. I have never felt that 5 grams was enough for me to capture all of the nuances a given chocolate has to offer.

Another thing I dislike about the Amedei origin squares is that they are so thin. I feel that thinness can also play a part in tasting--thicker pieces being better for presenting full flavour-profiles.


There seems to be a consensus that 5g squares are suboptimal - and yes, I think they're too small and unwieldy. They do, however, serve a useful purpose. In a shop, it's nice to have bowls of such squares available for people to try: for the novice chocolate aficionado it's intimidating to be asked to pay upwards of £3.00 for a larger bar whose quality at this time is an unknown. Will you like it? The tasting square at least allows you to get a basic like/dislike reaction to decide further. For the serious chocophile, however, they're not useful, and perhaps the retention of this format suggests a certain conceptual lag in manufacturers - they haven't yet fully caught on to the fact that there is now a substantial body of experienced chocolate consumers who will readily drop £3 or more for a chocolate, even an unknown one.

Tasting a square is a little different from a bar - because you have to make the most of the small amount that you have. Just taking the whole thing right away is useless. What I do here is bite about half of it right away, in order to get the best assessment possible under the situation of the up-front flavour, and chew that piece thoroughly. Then with the second part I allow that to melt in the mouth as slowly as possible - in order to discover again within the limits provided the qualities of melt and length. I suppose this technique is much more similar to the standard descriptions of how to taste than my preferred unorthodox approach - and I wonder if the tasting guidelines we have as common today were designed around the assumption of the tasting-squares format? In other words, might indeed the nature of how to taste need to be reexamined in the light of the context in which you're tasting?

Ironically, Amedei, perpetrators of the worst format, also deliver the best. The Chuao, Porcelana, and 9 bars have *exactly* the ideal format. They're the right size (50g), thick enough to get a full melt and yet not difficult to bite into, not so wide that they won't fit in the mouth. Chuao is an example of a chocolate that does everything right - the best chocolate, in the best format, packaged in the best packaging (can't beat the foiled-paper inside cardboard box). Let us all exhort them to deliver all their varietals in the same 50g bars.

Alex Rast
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seneca
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January 26, 2007 - 4:45 am
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It's a slight aside, but I think a sealed flow wrap inside the box would be superior to Amedei's foil wrap. For a product trying to occupy the extreme high end of the market, they should really do everything possible to maintain aroma and finish...

http://bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com

http://bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com http://www.bittersweetcafe.com
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Alex Rast
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January 27, 2007 - 9:21 pm
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quote:


Originally posted by seneca

It's a slight aside, but I think a sealed flow wrap inside the box would be superior to Amedei's foil wrap. For a product trying to occupy the extreme high end of the market, they should really do everything possible to maintain aroma and finish...


Are you thinking of plastic-style wraps (e.g. Domori?) In that case I disgree, *strongly*. Inevitably plastic wraps end up out-gassing into the chocolate (even the most odour-free of them) and contributing an evanescent but nonetheless detectable flavour. The chocolate doesn't taste as round - it has a more cardboardy flavour. Sometimes you can specifically taste the plastic.

Cluizel is also pretty good - he uses sealed foil. I might like to see a slightly thicker foil used, and this is one area where Amedei has the definite edge: foiled paper will withstand more abuse. In addition foiled paper has that one iota better temperature and humidity modulation (the thickness acts as an insulator and the paper as a moisture absorbent).

Alex Rast
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seneca
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January 27, 2007 - 11:38 pm
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Yep...flow wraps, like Cluizel and Chuao (the brand, not the region) are using.

http://bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com

http://bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com http://www.bittersweetcafe.com
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Nicholas Zukin
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August 9, 2007 - 9:08 am
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I'll buck the trend. I think 5g is enough. I can get my tongue pretty well coated and get a full range of flavors with a 4g piece. I think much above 10g starts to get too big and doesn't allow the chocolate to melt and dissolve fast enough and feels like I'm stuffing my face in a manner unlike how I would normally eat chocolate. And I've got a big mouth and am a hog of an eater, normally.

I think style of chewing matters a lot for how the flavors develop, though. If you let a chocolate melt in your mouth first and then slowly chew it, I think it can greatly reduce the bitterness. Chewing it quickly and spreading it throughout the mouth makes all its flavors sharper but diminish more quickly. I think.

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Casey
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December 14, 2007 - 2:49 pm
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Yes, I think 4g or 5g is enough, and then take a second taste.

http://chocolatenote.blogspot.com

The Chocolate Note http://chocolatenote.blogspot.com
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