18 Oct 2023
Whether you’re an amateur baker or a professional chocolatier, the ability to detect, understand, and describe all of the sensory components present within chocolate is an essential skill when creating masterful baked goods and desserts.
With professional insight from our Puratos Sensory Analysis team, we’ve outlined how to get the most from a chocolate tasting.
Our judgment of the taste isn't solely based on flavor; it also incorporates other elements such as our surroundings, social environment, product information like labels and branding, and even our culture and past food experiences.
In Sensory Analysis, we apply specific conditions and rules to reduce or control the influence of external elements that may affect the evaluations.
Follow these rules to give yourself the best chance to fully experience the chocolate you’re tasting:
Make sure to find a space that is as devoid of sensory stimulus as possible. Ideally, this will be a calm place with a neutral smell and normal lighting.
It is essential to be in an environment that won’t hamper the judgment of any of your senses to get the most from your tasting session.
This means no coffee, cigarettes, chewing gum, or any other strong sensory experiences within an hour before tasting.
Make sure you don’t have any ailments that may affect your ability to taste (like a cold, for example). As we perceive aromas via the nose & retro nasal canal, if your nose is blocked, you cannot fully perceive the complex aromatic notes.
Not convinced? Try tasting a piece of chocolate with your nose closed. Taste the same chocolate with your nose open! Do you see the difference?
This doesn’t mean you need to close your eyes for the entirety of the tasting (although we’ll come on to how closing your eyes can help below).
Always conduct a blind taste test to remove any bias you may have and to remove the influence of external factors like the brand or how the label looks.
To do this, code your products & randomize the order in which you taste the products.
To learn more about how to set up a scientific sensory analysis test, read our handy article: How to conduct a sensory analysis test: the golden rules.
Once you’ve taken all of the necessary steps to prepare properly, it’s time to conduct your chocolate tasting.
The ability to fully experience all of the complex sensory information when tasting chocolate is something that requires conscious effort. Follow these steps to help you improve your sensitivity to the flavors, aromas, aesthetics, and textures present in chocolate.
It’s essential to taste in all consciousness when conducting a tasting. Try to concentrate solely on the tasting and block out everything else around you. Ignore any thoughts that may enter your mind (like your to-do list or what you may be doing afterward) while tasting.
To be fully present, closing your eyes can be a helpful trick. It can be a good way to try to block everything out and just focus on the tasting at hand.
To get the most sensory experience whereby you maximize your ability to taste the flavor and detect aromas whilst tasting, it’s important to taste slowly and breathe smoothly.
This allows for the optimal build-up of aromas in the mouth that amplifies the flavor. Another tip is to smoothly blow air through your nose after swallowing. This will intensify the perception of the complex aromatic notes.
All of your senses are being engaged when you taste chocolate. It’s vitally important that you consciously pay attention to each of these senses in order to get a complete sensory experience.
Here are some examples of ways you can tap into each of your senses when tasting chocolate:
Break the chocolate bar in half and listen. Do you hear a nice snap? A nice sharp snapping sound tells you that the chocolate is well-tempered.
What do you hear when you bite into the chocolate bar? How does that affect the overall experience?
Take note of how the chocolate feels in your hands. Is the product smooth, or is it sticky? Does it melt immediately?
Also, take note of how it feels in the mouth. Is it grainy, or is it smooth? How fast does it melt?
Always smell the chocolate before tasting as this helps to complete the full sensory journey & experience.
What are the aromas you can detect? Are they intense aromas? Can you sense any light or subtle aromas?
When tasting the chocolate, try closing your eyes and nose before you begin. Cover the palate of your mouth while the chocolate melts, then exhale through your nose!
Pay attention to the flavor release when the product melts in your mouth. The basic tastes & complex aromas unveil themselves at different moments, so try to stay present and pay attention to the full taste journey & experience.
As well as flavor and aromas, take note of any other sensations that may occur, like a cooling sensation, heating sensation, spiciness, tingling sensation, or any salivating effect that you experience too.
When it comes to improving your ability to detect all of this sensory information, practice is the key.
Practice a lot, and keep on tasting and trying. Test yourself: taste blind, try to identify the sensory characteristics, and then compare with the official description.
Were you close, or were your notes very different from the description? Make a note of which elements you were right about and where there were differences with the official description. Keeping a record of this is useful in understanding your palate and is also a great way to keep track of your progress.
You can learn directly from our Sensory Analysis experts with bespoke sensory training and consulting.
If you want to undertake a sensory study, we can advise and train you on how to design your study, guide you on the best study methods, and show you how to analyze data, in addition to providing insight into sensory vocabulary, among other things.
Contact your local representative to learn more about the sensory services available in your country.