Developing a Palate for Chocolates

By Laura Levy Shatkin
Chicago Tribune

Chocolate tasting is not unlike wine tasting. Each type of chocolate bar contains its own set of flavor profiles. The flavors of the cacao bean, the source of all chocolate, can be influenced by a multitude of variables, such as topography, weather (e.g. rainfall, amount of sun, etc.), soil conditions (e.g. type, nutrient content, drainage properties, etc.), post-harvesting processing (fermenting, roasting, etc.) and, of course, genotypic properties. With so many variables affecting the flavor of just one chocolate bar, a tasting guide can be helpful. Whether buying bars to eat out of hand or use in baking, let these tasting notes be your guide. (The percentages with many of the bars represent the amount of cacao used.)

All brands are available for shipping through their respective websites. Many are also available at Cocoa & Co., 1651 N. Wells St., 312-624-8540,
Guayas River Basin, Ecuador 70%: Rich and deep in dusty cocoa flavors, with subtle notes of dark fruit and toffee and a floral aroma. Ultimate smooth melting, with lingering flavors.
Madagascar, Sambirano 70%: Racy flavors of green bananas and a hint of cherries; it’s a lively bar and lighter in color.

American Dark Chocolate, Toldeo 76%: Subtle fruity flavors; deep rusty notes; smooth/y melts in the mouth.
Silk Dark Chocolate, Matagalpa 78%: Floral and tea flavors; slower to melt in mouth; rich and deep cocoa notes.
Bitter Dark Chocolate, Verapaz 86%: Deep dark with smooth bitter flavors; drying tannins in the finish. Price $5.25;

Single Origin Belize, 80%: Rich fruit flavors, hint of pineapple as it melts smoothly, with a note of vanilla.
Single Origin Dominican Republic, 80%: Mild fruit flavors of cherries and orange, with a mild grittiness but clean note on the finish.
Single Origin Madagascar, 80%: Berry and fruit flavors with a smoother finish and rich dark note of cocoa. Price $7.50; 113 S. Benton St., Woodstock, www.etherealconfections

Malted Milk Chocolate, 44%: Rich flavor and smooth texture, with hints of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
Guatemala, 73% Dark Chocolate: A delightful clean chocolate flavor with less complexity but nice meltability. Price: $9 to $11
Truffles: Impossibly creamy and luscious truffles filled with the likes of lavender, smoked salt and masala chai, all crafted in small batches. Price: 12-piece assorted box: $29.95;

70% Dark with Salt: Flakes of salt surround the fruitier flavors of rich, dark berries and raisins.
San Martin, Peru 70%: Deep, bright cocoa flavors; earthy, slower meltability.
Upala, Costa Rica 85%: Rich, dark with tannins that dry on the finish. For the serious dark chocolate lover. Price: $8,

Assorted truffles: Smooth confections rich in deep chocolate flavors, with each bite flavored slightly differently, from classic truffles and salted caramels to espresso truffles and hazelnut breezies. Price: $32;






Ecuador 75%: Nutty flavors of walnuts and hazelnuts, hint of toffee, with smooth but shorter melting.
Madagascar 75%: Higher acidity, rich with a citrus finish, slower melting on the tongue but smooth.
Peru 75%: Deep, rich, dusty cocoa flavors with a hint of coffee and cherry, amazing meltability in the mouth. Price: $8.50;

Congo Coffee & Cream Milk Chocolate, 45%: Rich and creamy, with a delicate coffee accent, and gorgeous mouthfeel. $5
Organic Salted Almond, 70% Dark Chocolate: Creamy, deep chocolate flavors with a hint of toffee and smooth melting. $4
Organic 85% Dark Chocolate for Baking: While designated as a recipe additive, this dark bar has racy cherries, a touch of lovely acidity and the right bitter finish, yet few nuances. $5,

Read Laura's feature article, Best Valentine's Day Chocolates: Bean-to-Bar Artisan Brandshere

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