On Monday, I gathered with fellow chocophiles in the coziness that is Xoxolat. Our mission: to taste great chocolate. And my side mission was to regale the group with infinitely interesting and witty stories from chocolate travels past.
Over the course of the next 90 minutes, we covered a lot of ground. We talked about how chocolate is transformed from bean to bar, and just how difficult it is to get right. That was followed by a brief lesson on tasting chocolate, complete with bunny-rabbit sniffing technique that I learned from a perfumer. Imagine a room full of people cupping pieces of chocolate in one hand, the other hand cupped over their nose, sniffing like bunny rabbits. If we weren’t so distracted by chocolate, it would have been funny.
Well, it still was.
We ended up tasting five selections from Patric Chocolate.
Patric Chocolate 67% Madagascar
This was the gateway chocolate. With notes of plum and raisin and just the slightest sharpness of citrus, it’s a chocolate with character that isn’t overpowering. Its flavour is pretty typical of Madagascan chocolate, with hints of red fruit. This one also has added cocoa butter, so it’s particularly smooth and melty.
Patric Chocolate 70% Rio Caraibe
Where the previous bar was bright and fruity, this one was a bit more brooding. That makes sense, given that these beans come from Venezuela and have a very different flavour profile than Madagascan beans. Some people in the class tasted butterscotch and coffee, others a kick of spice and flowers.
Patric Chocolate 70% Madagascar
I wanted to compare this bar to the 70% Rio Caraibe bar, to illustrate the differences that bean origin has on the final product. The 70% Madagascar is bright, effusive and almost brash. The red fruit is there, but accompanied by a red wine or balsamic vinegar syrupiness at the back of the tongue.
Even more interesting is a comparison of the 70% and 67% Madagascar bars. Ostensibly from the same beans, but with marginal differences in sugar content and cocoa butter content, the two bars are very different. The 67% is more more muted, with the fruit flavours taking centre stage. The 70% has more of the acidic richness of the red wine and vinegar flavours I mentioned.
Patric Chocolate 70% Madagascar with Nibs
This bar is the 70% Madagascar bar with the inclusion of Madagascan cocoa nibs. Far more than just the sum of its parts, the nibs are hoppy—almost boozy, actually, with a nutty undertone. The effect this has on the tastebuds really pulls out the acidic qualities of the chocolate, drawing out the red wine syrupiness.
This is probably my favourite of the Patric line, and one that makes my ears tingle. No joke. It makes my ears tingle, and then I do a happy dance. Bribe me with this chocolate and I will show you the happy dance.
Patric Chocolate 75% Madagascar
We had small quantities of this, personally supplied by someone in the class. I love that I have people in this class who bring their own chocolate! With less sugar than the 67% or 70% bars from the same region, this one was less fruity with a more distinct cocoa flavour.
We finished off the night with some wacky selections from the Zotter line (avocado and mandarin orange, anyone?) and shots of drinking chocolate.
Tasting chocolate makes you full
One comment really stuck with me after the class, and that was that one of the participants felt full. And yes, we had been tasting chocolate for about 90 minutes, but the tasting portions were small. And there were long stretches of me yammering away about fermentation or ethics or something else, so we certainly weren’t stuffing our faces.
The difference was that we were tasting. Consciously. We were thinking about what our tongue tasted, what our nose smelled, what our eyes saw. And while I know that my eating and tasting experiences have changed drastically since I’ve become conscious about these senses, it was very interesting to hear someone else say it. And for him to have observed it in such a short period of time. I think he was just surprised at how full he felt from eating so little, but considering how much mental energy went into tasting those samples of chocolate, I’m not surprised.
Next week: Pralus
I started with Patric Chocolate because they’re an interesting small company based in North America (Missouri, to be exact). Next week, I’ll look at one of the old-school French producers, Pralus. I can’t wait.