A Taste of Chocolate with Miss Choco
For most of us, chocolate is associated with pleasure. We use it in lavish desserts, we eat it when we want a treat or a little pick-me-up, or we offer it as a gift on special occasions. But seldom do we think about chocolate as a food that has political, environmental and ethical implications.
Being a tropical plant, chocolate is produced in countries of the South, where environmental norms and working conditions can be vulnerable. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that consumers in the North expect a low-cost product. The industry has responded by mass-marketing chocolate that is often-time of lower quality, unfair and not sustainable.
Karine Chrétien-Guillemette, a.k.a. Miss Choco, is a chocolate lover. But for many years, she has been preoccupied with the way in which we consume chocolate. To develop awareness and raise respect for the product and its artisans, she got right to the reason why we eat chocolate: pleasure!
Miss Choco believes that the senses can be a gateway to start understanding the complex dimensions of chocolate, then leading to a change in consumption habits.
What is Food?
The Basics of Chocolate Tasting
To get the full experience of chocolate tasting, you should use all your senses. And degustation is a slow process, so take your time!
First rely on your visual impressions: what is the color or the shine of your chocolate? Then touch it: is it smooth, coarse, grainy, sticky? Break a piece and hear the sound it makes: is it sharp and neat, or more like soft wax? Put the piece close to your nose and smell it: do you detect specific aromas?
Finally put a piece in your mouth and let it soften. Is the texture smooth, astringent, pasty? What is the flavor palette: sweet, bitter, acidic, even salty? Do you perceive aromas, flowery, spicy or fruity? Maybe hints of vanilla, coffee, or burnt notes? What is the finish in the mouth, is it short or does it linger and continue to develop?
Congratulations, you have conducted your first chocolate tasting! With time, you can learn to appreciate the diversity of bean tastes.
You can do it with even more pleasure knowing that taste education can encourage fair and sustainable production.
For many years, Karine Chretien Guillemette owned a chocolate shop specialized in bean-to-bar (La Tablette de Miss Choco, Montreal) and imported and distributed several bean-to-bar chocolate brands in Canada. She also hosted numerous chocolate tasting workshops, conferences and pairing events.
As a PhD candidate in food studies at Concordia University, she is now going back to her academic roots in education. Her research focuses on food pedagogy and critical consumer education in the specialty bean-to-bar chocolate industry.