The world of food can be approached from two angles: as an eater and as a taster. While they may sound like the same thing to most people, but there are some undeniable differences between these two methods of consumption.
The vast majority of us spend our time around the table in the first camp. We eat our meals to fill our stomachs, satisfy our cravings, to spend time in fellowship, to fuel our minds, bodies and souls. But rarely do we dive into a bite or a sip as a taster.
Tasting requires that we slow down (easier said than done) and give over our brains to our senses. Tasting involves not only how bitter, sweet, sour or savory something is, but its aromas and textures. This week we describe how to taste like a pro, using a two of our favorite romantic foods and drinks: chocolate and coffee.
Chocolate tasting should start with a few sips of water and a plain cracker to cleanse the palate, then dive into some simple, good quality chocolates.
First, take a whiff of the chocolate and take note of any aromas and flavors. Some chocolates smell fruity, others smoky. Then, take a decently sized bite of the chocolate and let it slowly melt in your mouth to absorb all the flavors layered in the treat.
Let the different flavor sensation bounce around your mouth, from the tip of your tongue to the back of your palate. Once you finish one flavor or type of chocolate, take a bit of the cracker and water and move towards darker, more complex chocolates. More intricate and delicate chocolates have the power to transform their tastes as they melt, so be sure to take your time with them.
We’d recommend you go down to Nuance Chocolate for a tasting of some single-bean chocolates, which generally have the most distinct and noteworthy flavor profiles. Nuance imports cocoa beans from around the world and makes their own chocolate from scratch, which is rare in the chocolate world. They offer a variety of flights, each consisting of 5 different chocolates.
All coffee tastings should start with black coffee: no cream, sugar or milk allowed, simply good quality, roasted beans and hot water. Tasting a good coffee begins not in the mouth, but in the nose.
Once poured, swirl your coffee around to help incorporate a little air and to release that wonderful aroma. Step two is where the tasting begins. Slurp your coffee slowly, swishing around your mouth. Slurping again allows for air to mix in with the liquid, and swishing allows all of your taste buds to get in on the action.
Note how the flavors can change from the front and side of the tongue to the back. Often the first notes are flowery, fruity, or acidic and gradually melt into deeper, more bitter or earthy tones as they reach the back of the palate. The final step in a coffee tasting requires food; a slice of light cake, a muffin, or other light pastry is ideal.
Take a bite of your baked good, then sip your coffee. Food acts as a flavor amphitheater for coffee, increasing the vibrancy of the flavors. As with chocolate, try sampling beans from different regions of the globe. Compare an African bean, like a Kenyan or Ethiopian, with a Central or South American roast from Guatemala or Brazil.