Food + Drink

How to Host a Chocolate Tasting Party

When people find out what I do—taste chocolate professionally, meet with chocolate makers and chocolatiers, and teach people how to appreciate fine chocolate—they inevitably ask one question. How did you choose chocolate? (Sub-question: How do I get your job?)

The truth is, chocolate chose me.

I started as a chemist, but I was a rotten chemist. In grad school, instead of making liquid crystals (that’s right, the goo inside your high-def TV), I pored over food science textbooks and conducted edible experiments in my kitchen. Toward the end of my master’s degree, my supervisor asked if I would do a Ph.D. in his lab and I almost vomited on his shoes.

I took a cue from the universe and went to culinary school instead. I dreamed of sugar and butter, perfect éclairs and multi-tiered cakes. I started working as pastry chef but inevitably found myself working with chocolate: elaborate showpieces for hotels, delicate bonbons for fine dining restaurants, chocolate decorations for bakeries.

Just as I hung up my lab coat, I’ve retired my chef’s jacket. And it turns out that the combination of science, chocolate, and writing really makes sense—especially as the world of chocolate has exploded. Small-scale chocolate makers (often called bean-to-bar makers) are popping up all over the globe. Grocery store shelves are heaving with chocolate bars. You can order drinking chocolate in chic cafes. People are tasting chocolate like they’re tasting wine, beer, and cheese.

In short: There has never been a better time to love chocolate. I hope you’ll join me on this fantastic adventure.

Eagranie Yuh
Author of The Chocolate Tasting Kit

Read on for tips on how to host a chocolate tasting party in this excerpt from The Chocolate Tasting Kit!
Chocolate Tasting Kit

How to Host a Chocolate Tasting Party
Picture this: you, your best friends, and a table strewn with chocolate. Throw in a few choice beverages, the flash cards in this kit, and your trusty chocolate tasting notepad, and you have the makings of a kick-ass chocolate tasting party.

Keys to Success
The ideal chocolate tasting takes about forty-five minutes to an hour, with four to six chocolates to sample.

Aim for four to ten people, with 1/5 oz/5 g of chocolate per person, per sample. For reference, that’s a piece slightly bigger than an almond. A 3- to 4-oz/80- to 100-g bar should accommodate eight to ten people with enough left over for second (or third) tastes.

If you shop at a fine chocolate shop, ask the staff to help you put your purchases in a logical order. Otherwise, sample each bar before your guests arrive. Consider it research.

A good rule of thumb is to taste dark chocolates before milk chocolates, and milk before white. Start with the sweetest (lowest-percentage) dark chocolate and work your way to the least sweet (highest-percentage). Then take the same approach with plain milk and plain white bars, followed by any flavored bars. When tasting flavored bars, taste more delicate flavors, such as fruits or flowers, before stronger ones, such as spices, coffee, or, ahem, bacon.

Have ready your palate cleansers and room-temperature water. Or, pair your chocolate samples with carefully selected coffee, tea, wine, beer, or whiskey. Check out The Chocolate Tasting Kit for more on palate cleansers and pairings.

Guinevere de la Mare

Guinevere de la Mare is a writer, book lover, and the founder of Silent Book Club. She lives in San Francisco. She also was the senior community manager at Chronicle Books from 2009-2014.

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