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Quite possibly the sweetest job ever

Posted on September 26, 2013

It’s quite possibility the sweetest job ever: expert chocolate taster.

From Sept. 22-25, VCC’s Baking and Pastry Arts Department hosted judges from Canada, Italy, the U.S., and the U.K., whose melt-in-your-mouth job was to choose the finest chocolates from more than 100 samples submitted by chocolatiers from across the country. The winning entries will represent Canada at the International Chocolate Awards in London, England next month.

chocolate judges

Becoming an expert in this field takes a lot of patience and experience (the old adage “practice makes perfect” deliciously applies). Just ask Italian judge Monica Meschini, who has been tasting chocolate, wine and tea professionally all over the world for more than 30 years.

So, how does expert chocolate tasting work, exactly? And how can you embark on your very own chocolate-tasting adventure? Here are 10 helpful tips from experts who visited VCC:

  • Don’t rush. Chocolate is meant to be tasted, not eaten. Let the chocolate melt in your mouth and don’t chew. The best part about tasting chocolate is that it can go on for hours.

  • Taste blindly to keep your taste buds honest. Put samples in paper cups and number them.

  • Keep samples small to avoid getting full. Remember: taste, don’t eat.

  • Try each sample more than once. Through this process your palette adjusts and flavours change. You might be surprised that chocolate can taste more or less appealing the second or third time around.

  • Cleanse your palette often using a cleanser called polenta. It looks like bright yellow mush but does the trick. Lots of water and leafy greens will also help. Avoid coffee.

  • Don’t judge a book by its cover. Style and creativity should be factors (25%) but focus primarily on ingredients and taste (75%).

  • Be picky. Use a scorecard with a scale of 1-5.
    1= sub-standard and 5 = sublime. Keep the best chocolates in the tasting rotation and try each a few more times until you’re down to the very best.

  • Write down words to describe tastes and textures; salty, fruity, creamy, nutty, balanced, too bitter, etc. It’s interesting to see how people describe different tastes for the exact same chocolate.

  • If possible, invite friends over to manage subjectivity. Everyone has different tastes, experiences and preferences when it comes to food. With more friends -- or judges -- on hand, the best and worst chocolates will almost certainly stand out.

  • Local is better. The best chocolate-makers in the world use local ingredients that produce distinct flavours. In Canada, judges might tip the scales in favour of those with hints of maple syrup, Saskatoon berries, B.C. honey or even Canadian bacon.