As with wine and coffee, chocolate has a story. There is a lot more to this world-favorite delicacy than white, milk and dark. Take a look at any artisanal bar: It likely started with cacao beans that were specially grown in a tropical part of the world. Depending on the location, the beans create a distinctive chocolate flavor, texture and aroma. Different flavors can be blended or paired with other ingredients for more complex results. We are talking hints of cashew, earthy aromas with bitter notes, smoky overtones and more.
From floral and spicy to herbal and balsamic, there are countless combinations that can create unique chocolate experiences. To enhance the enjoyment even further, here is some information you can use to take your chocolate tasting to the next level.
Where to Find Artisanal Chocolate
If you are new to the world of artisanal chocolate, check out local specialty food shops and grocers. These retailers will often showcase all kinds of bean-to-bar delights. Labels will tell you where the beans were grown, which in itself is a clue to what profiles and subtleties you can expect to find inside. This is a great place to start when learning about chocolate varieties.
Flavors From Different Regions
The intrigue and joy of chocolate tasting comes from the endless possibilities. From sweet to salty, zingy to mellow, it is all available in the world of chocolate. There are the floral and spicy flavors of beans harvested in Ecuador. Citrus and berry notes stand out in beans from Madagascar. Chocolate made from cacao in Papua New Guinea will often have smoky flavors, just as those from the Philippines are earthy and slightly bitter. The more varieties you try, the clearer it becomes that there are abundant flavors, aromas and textures sourced from around the world. Why not taste them all?
Chocolate Paired With Other Ingredients
Adding to the creative possibilities of gourmet chocolate, there is the option to include other ingredients in the mix: vanilla, cinnamon, milk/cream, fruit, nuts, liquor, beer, wine and more. You can also pair chocolate with food or drinks designed to accentuate the cacao. The best blends will be those that highlight the distinct flavor of a given bean, rather than hide it.
Popular Flavor Families in the World of Chocolate
Want to indulge more fully in the delectable world of chocolate? Here is a look at seven specific flavor families that can not only satisfy but enhance your sweet tooth:
1. Balsamic: Subtle and warming, balsam aromas include everything from cedar, pine and juniper to sandalwood and vanilla.
2. Roasted: Toasted bread, roasted nuts or golden caramel add a cozy, warm flavor to any artisanal chocolate bar.
3. Fruity: Berries, exotic fruits, stone fruits and other favorites work well in chocolate, creating a honeyed and fresh taste.
4. Citrus: The bright and zesty flavors of citrus speak to summer freshness and bright notes that play on the tongue.
5. Herbal: Herbal tastes run the gamut from sage and mint to thyme and fennel, as well as fresh or dried grass, green tea and more.
6. Floral: The wonderful aroma of lavender or rose work beautifully in chocolate, creating precious scents as perfumed as springtime air.
7. Spiced: Exotic spices include ginger, red pepper, cinnamon, pink peppercorn and more.
Don’t get stuck with the same basic chocolate candy bar — expand your horizons and try something new. To dive deeper into these combinations, take a look at the accompanying resource by Richart, which further details each group of flavors and provides examples. The world of chocolate is ready and waiting for you to explore!