Chocolate is a substance that has soothed and ignited humans for thousands of years. But despite our lengthy love affair, many of us aren't clear on where chocolate comes from, or the depth of flavor it holds.
The world's most beloved confection starts as colorful, football-shaped pods that sprout haphazardly from tree trunks and branches — a sort of Dr. Seuss fantasy come to life. Inside each pod is a mass of sweet pulp that enrobes bitter seeds. Seeds that, once processed, become chocolate.
If your go-to is a Hershey's or other industrial bar, you may think of chocolate as one flavor. But cocoa boasts a wide range of aromas and tastes, explains Darin Sukha, the head of the Flavour and Quality division at the University of the West Indies' Cocoa Research Centre, home to the largest and most important collection of cocoa in the world.
Sukha is one of the leading global researchers in exploring the range of factors that contribute to the flavors that can be found in chocolate. As such, tasting is a crucial part of his work. His exploration includes the lesser-known flavors found in craft chocolate, in addition to the bars you'd find in a check-out line, which are mass-manufactured for consistency. Industrial chocolate is "chocolate that you eat," Sukha says, while craft is "chocolate that you experience."
Although makers get most of the credit, these moments of deliciousness are largely due to the work of cocoa farmers, and the places where cocoa is grown and processed.
So how exactly do we pick up on these extraordinary flavors? By using all our senses: sight, smell, sound, touch and taste. And don't worry if you're not an expert. As Sukha reminds us: "We've been tasting since the day we were born." The possibility of discovery belongs to all of us.
Here's how to savor chocolate like an expert.
"Unwrap your bar. Look at it," Sukha says. Cocoa beans are diverse and can range in color from reddish to dark brown. The sheen that you see is a reflection of how it was processed. If you see any whitish discoloration, this is normal; your chocolate hasn't gone bad. Cocoa beans have a very high fat content (roughly 50 percent cocoa solids and 50 percent cocoa fat, known as cocoa butter). Sometimes the fat rises to the surface. It will blend back together when it melts in your mouth.
Cocoa has upwards of 600 aroma compounds that range from bright, tart berries to sweet floral notes. (See the aroma wheel below for more of what you might discover.) You'll get a rush of scents as you open your bar and even more as the chocolate melts on your tongue and wafts through your nose and the back of your throat.
We don't often think about the sound of our chocolate, but a tight snap gives clues as to how the chocolate was tempered — a process of heating and cooling to stabilize the fat and give it a nice sound and sheen.
Note the texture of your chocolate. "Rub your fingers together and feel whether or not there's a texture or grit, or if it's smooth," Sukha says. This is another clue about the intentions of the maker and how the chocolate is processed. A silky chocolate might have extra cocoa butter; a rough chocolate might be stone-ground.
And now, take a bite. Use your tongue to spread the melted chocolate all over your palate. What you will notice is something akin to a symphony: "You have front notes, middle notes, and afternotes," Sukha explains. "Your chocolate might lead with acidity and follow with fruitiness and earthier tones." And the way to build your skills? "Buy more chocolate and keep tasting it."
When it comes to chocolates, almost everyone has special pre ..
Whether you’re looking for a last-minute Valentine’s Day gift, or you’re simply seeking to bring some joy into your own life, this new chocolate subscription service in Dubai is sure to hit the sweet spot.
Co Chocolat is the brainchild of two Dubai-based sisters, Iman and Luchie – bringing quality, handcrafted bars, hot chocolates and spreads to your door.
Monthly subscriptions are available in three or six month packages, and are available in three sizes: Happy Solo, Sharing Box or Family Box. If you subscribe for six months, a Sharing Box will cost Dhs171 per month.
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Each month is a surprise, with items including single-origin chocolates, pure cacao products, chocolate-hazelnut spreads, cookies, pastries and hot chocolate mixtures.
If a monthly delivery of chocolates sounds like a dangerous idea, fear not: Co Chocolat promises a healthy take on your favourite treat. The sisters source cacao directly from farmers in the Philippines, then sweeten it with natural fruit ingredients, rather than processes sugar.
The beautifully wrapped chocolate bars are laced with nuts, grains, dates, moringga and other ancient healing ingredients with mood-boosting properties. Unique flavour combinations include white chocolate with moringga and green tea; dark chocolate with turmeric and black pepper; or Turkish coffee. Co Chocolat also creates diabetic-friendly chocolate bars, along with gluten-free and nut-free varieties.
Along with the monthly hampers, you can order individual bars, baked goods and cacao products on the website, or visit Co Chocolat at Seva in Jumeirah 1, where they’ll be popping up on Friday mornings for the next month.
Healthy eating never tasted so good…
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