Become a chocolate 'sommelier' and host a chocolate tasting

Like wine-loving oenophiles, chocoholics are hosting tastings in their homes to appreciate the complex flavors of good quality chocolate.

It's a trend that has taken shape in the last few years, says British chocolatier Damian Allsop, and one that recognizes chocolate as more than just a confectionery.

Like a fine wine, quality chocolate has a nose, acidity, fruitiness and tasting notes, Allsop said. And like wine tastings, the best way to appreciate the craftsmanship of good chocolate is to sample it with a clean palate and use the right ‘tasting' techniques.

Allsop was one of several chocolatiers who presented a workshop at the Speciality and Fine Foods Fair in London over the weekend where experts shared their tips and tricks for chocoholics.

To host your own chocolate tasting, start by investing in quality bars, experts say.

Good chocolate, for instance, should have a reddish-brown hue. If a bar is too black, chances are the chocolate's been roasted too much. Quality chocolate also has a sharp snap when broken.

Paul Young, another fashionable London chocolatier, suggests asking each guest to bring a bar of good chocolate to make the tasting more economical.

Young, whose eponymously named chocolate boutiques in London offer unique and unexpected flavor pairings like Marmite and wasabi, is presenting a workshop on unusual ingredients Tuesday, September 6.

To sample chocolate like an expert, Allsop suggests putting a piece in your mouth and crushing it with your teeth. Push it towards the roof of your mouth and let the warmth of your body temperature melt the chocolate on your tongue, he said. What should follow is a time-released flavor profile that should take you through the top notes - fruity aromas like lychee or guava - and roasting notes like roasted almonds or coffee.

While hard core chocolate tasters perform the tastings first thing in the morning to ensure a clean palate, Allsop says 11 am is another opportune time as most people have been awake for only a few hours by then.

Try tasting the same chocolate more than once, he also advises, as it will likely take several taste tests to appreciate all the nuances of a fine bar of chocolate.

The Chocolate Tasting Club in the UK is an online club that delivers boxes of bonbons to members' doors every month. Chocolates are created and chosen by a team of chocolatiers in the UK.

Organic chocolate line Green & Black's also offers a tasting guide on their site.

To get an idea of how to conduct a chocolate tasting, watch a YouTube video featuring chocolate ‘sommelier' Roxanne of www.exoticchocolatetasting.com.

Allsop's signature water ganaches can be found at http://www.damianallsop.com/ and more information on Young's bonbons can be found at http://www.paulayoung.co.uk/ .

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