Koko Notebook – About the Chocolate Tasting Notes
I seek to find the most intriguing, unusual and delicious chocolates in the world. My tasting notes from all these chocolates are posted on the front page. Check in often to see what’s new.
Please let me know which chocolates you would like to see tasted by adding a comment to this entry. You’re encouraged to do your own tastings and offer your own opinion, disagree with me, highlight favor nuances I’ve missed, etc. I look forward to hearing from you!
About the chocolate ratings and reviews
There are countless opinions on the best ways to taste, describe, and rate chocolates. I have developed a system which puts a priority on what truly influences the enjoyment of the chocolate and generally ignores those attributes that are superficial or part of some tradition with unknown purpose. My intent is to give you a sense of how one chocolate differs from another in its flavor nuances and which of those might be the most enjoyable based upon my perceptions.
Sensory dimensions of my chocolate ratings:
Color (rating weight = 0) – I observe the color and note it my tasting journal, but don’t report it to you because it has no direct correlation to flavor. Why bother recording it then? Because it is part of the overall sensory experience and helps me to form a stronger taste memory of the chocolate.
Snap (weight = 0) – Same as for color. It may also give me a sense as to whether I have allowed enough time for the chocolate to warm from cellar temperature (typically 66 F).
Aroma (weight 10%) – As you know, this is closely linked to taste and certainly part of the pleasure. I usually break a piece to release some trapped volatile aromatics and immediately smell the broken edges. I also rub the broken edges of two pieces together to produce more aroma as well as a small mess on the table.
Initial impression (weight = 20%) – Taste preceptions in the first moments after the chocolate is in the mouth including just after chewing.
Middle taste (weight = 45%) – All perceptions after initial impression, but before swallowing.
Finish (weight = 20%) – How do the flavors change over time after swallowing? How long do they persist?
Texture (weight = 5%) – How does it melt on the tongue? What is the overall feel in the mouth? Texture adds another dimension to the sensory experience and it is relevant in that whatever is going on in your mouth affects the quality of the experience. Chocophiles should be happy that I’ve included a tasting dimension that is absent from the wine world!
The overall rating – I first rate each sensory dimension above on a scale of 0-10 (excluding snap and color). Then, each rating is multiplied by the weight shown above to achieve an overall rating from 0 to 100. This is not intended to be an exact science, but a way for you to compare my perceptions of the relative quality of different chocolates and the enjoyment it might bring you. I may also choose to adjust this system over time to make it more useful.
Less is more – I’m amazed at the shear number of descriptors some chocolate critics come up with to describe a single type of chocolate. There’s no doubt that chocolates can be quite complex and a gifted taster can perceive a whole lot of action that many of us can’t, but I feel these types of reviews risk confusing the consumer through information overload. Was that the early spring apple-blossoms or the late spring blossoms in decay? I’ve tried to include only the most distinct impressions in my descriptions, tasting the chocolates repeatedly, if needed, to reconfirm and zoom in on the nuances of flavor.
Price – Since the price you pay may vary depending upon where you live, I’ve stopped reporting the actual price. Instead, you can get an idea of the price based upon these ranges. This is a unit price for 100g even if the bar itself is not 100g. There are some deceptively expensive 50g bars out there, so keep that in mind if price matters to you.
$ – up to $3.00 / 100g
$$ – between $3.01 to 7.00 for 100g
$$$- over $7.00 for 100g.
Dispensing with the wine analogies?
I sense that some chocophiles are trying to keep their distance from the wine world and working to develop a separate and distinct tasting vocabulary. The danger in adopting the terminology of wine, I suppose, is that some people will miss the point that eating chocolate is a completely different experience than drinking wine and neophytes shouldn’t confuse the two. But I’ve spent a few decades tasting and collecting wine and don’t see any harm in borrowing the oenophiles terminology when it matches what we are trying to express. On the contrary, we can win over some wine lovers by helping them to quickly grasp the (otherwise simple) concepts in chocolate tasting by using familiar terminology. “Finish” is more accurate and descriptive, in my opinion, than using “late mouth” or some other vagary. But, in a nod to the new world of chocophiles, I have avoided my deep-rooted impulse to use the wine term “approach” and instead go with “initial impression.” This does seem to work better since wine flows into the mouth – it is a fluid moving in an approach, but chocolate sits and waits for our initial impression. In the end, as long as we are consistent and define are terms, no harm done either way, right?
In summary, this is about one of the most enjoyable foods on earth. Although there are numbers and a system to my reviews, this is only an attempt to be as objective as possible. Consider it a starting point for your own exploration and let’s not get too serious.