Want to take your annual holiday party or social gathering up a sweet notch? Try a chocolate tasting!
I recently participated in a holiday-themed, virtual chocolate tasting with Delysia Chocolatier – an event where specialty chocolates are sent to participants in advance and then they meet up with a chocolate expert online who walks them through the chocolate tasting. While I had hosted or participated in a few informal chocolate tastings in the past, this was my first official chocolate tasting with an expert of high-end chocolates.
It was such an unexpectedly fun and educational event that I wanted to learn how to host my own, in-person event this holiday. Let’s take a look at what I learned:
8 Tips for Hosting a Holiday Chocolate Tasting
1. Temperature – Never taste cold chocolate! Tasting cold chocolate hinders your ability to discern the flavors. If for some reason you’ve kept your chocolate in the fridge, you’ll want to bring your chocolate to room temperature. Take them out of the fridge about an hour before serving.
2. Palate Cleanser – To help neutralize flavors between different types or flavors of chocolates, be sure to provide guests with a few palate cleansers. This could be as simple as still or sparkling water, or you could also provide table crackers or apple slices.
3. Light to Dark Chocolate – During my formal chocolate tasting, our chocolate expert explained that it’s best to start with light chocolates first – like milk chocolate or white chocolate, and then move to dark chocolate.
4. Delicate to Bold Flavors – After you divide the chocolates from light to dark, then divide by flavor. Similar to a wine tasting, start with your more delicate chocolates first. Start with peppermints, fruity flavors, then to citrus, then on to richer flavors like caramels, and strong spices like chili, etc.
5. The Sniff Test – Again, similar to a wine tasting, you’ll want to smell each piece of chocolate before diving in. The scent of the chocolate is an important component of the flavor. Experts suggest sniffing the thinnest part of chocolate – for a chocolate truffle, this is usually at the bottom.
6. The First Bite – When you and your guests are ready to take your first bites, experts suggest taking a big enough bite that will represent all of the flavors in the chocolate (ie. Don’t just bite the outer, chocolate coating and skip the ganache in the middle). Avoid chewing the chocolate right away, but rather let the chocolate sit on your tongue and melt a little. After several seconds, the cocoa butter and flavors should be spread evenly in your mouth giving you the optimal opportunity to discern the flavors.
7. Compare Like to Like – Just like you wouldn’t compare a chocolate chip cookie to a brownie or a sparkling wine to a merlot, the expert I worked with suggested comparing similar types or categories of chocolate. Whether you are sticking with one brand of chocolate or multiple brands, you’ll want to compare truffles to truffles, bars to bars, chocolate covered caramels to same, etc.
8. Get Creative! – Although the chocolate is the ultimate star of the show, you can add a bit more holiday magic by incorporating a theme or other creative elements.
- Themes – Themes could include chocolates from around the world or exotic chocolates; liquor-based chocolates, or spice-based chocolates.
- Pairings – As part of the chocolate tasting, you can double the fun by pairing your sweets with wines, beers, liquors or even cheese!
- Blind Tastings – Add a little mystery to the event by holding a blind tasting – where your guests don’t know what types of chocolates they’re tasting and have them write down what flavors they can discern. Note – Trader Joe’s has a very affordable mystery taste test box of chocolate covered caramels. And for the guest who has guessed the most flavors correctly – gift them a prize, more chocolate of course!
Happy Holidays and Enjoy!