This was my first time attending a chocolate tasting that was serious about how to properly savor and detect notes in chocolate. Usually I tend to munch right into my chocolate, but now I’ve been taught “the way.” 🙂
First I’m going to backtrack and say that I’m very grateful that Washington, D.C., has The Chocolate House. I was thinking for the longest time that I wouldn’t be able to find any other store like For The Love of Chocolate (in Richmond, VA) that would be stuffed full of multiple brands and types of chocolate. But The Chocolate House has gone through some relatively recent changes that has allowed them to carry more variety in stock, and they’ve created the D.C. Chocolate Festival, which I’m sure many chocolate lovers in the area are very grateful for. I recently learned that they offer truffle making classes (which I would love to take at some point) and chocolate tasting classes. My interest was greatly piqued when they sent out an email regarding specifically tasting Amedei. I’ve recently tried the Porcelana bar by Amedei, after I had seen it all over Instagram, and I really liked it! It was so different than any other bar I had tried, so I was looking forward to trying other varieties by them.
Before putting any chocolate in our mouths, Marisol (an employee at The Chocolate House) walked us through some history regarding chocolate, its growth on trees, where cacao trees grow, and the process cacao beans go through to become chocolate as we know it. Because I haven’t had a chance to really read up on the history and processing of cacao, this personally was a great lesson!
We were then shown a video and taught some bits of information regarding Amedei specifically. Cecilia Tessieri, who founded Amedei in 1990, was the first female chocolatier and currently has 25 employees made up of mostly women. The local Amedei representative, Arin, confirmed that this was the case. He even shared with us a brick that Amedei handed him that came from their original building as a sign of, “Welcome to the family,” if I remembered that correctly.
Cecelia was called the first female chocolatier because originally she began making pralines using chocolate she purchased from another source. She decided she wanted to be involved with the entire process of making her chocolate, so she searched for the best cacao beans.
I can’t remember which year this happened, but a while back Amedei wanted to buy chuao cacao from Venezuela, though the beans were only sold to Varlhona at the time. Amedei offered to purchase the beans for a higher price and prove that they could make great chocolate using them. They were also willing to pay a higher price to help financially support the farmers who grew the trees and aid them in paying off any debts they held.
Some other interesting bits of information we learned were:
- Amedei conches their cocoa for 72 hours before using them in molds or confectionary, which is a very long time compared to most chocolate makers
- Amedei creates both bars and confectionary products, whereas most places will focus on only bars or only confectionary
- Amedei currently also uses Trinitario and Criollo beans
Then the part of tasting chocolate began! We were instructed to start with the higher cocoa percentage piece first. I was later told that this method allows tasters to not have a preconceived notion of what “sweetness” is, because if they started off with the naturally very sweet white chocolate, then the higher percentage chocolate would seem more bitter than it really was. Also, the high percentage of cocoa butter in white chocolate and milk chocolate can leave this coated feeling in the mouth, which could inhibit properly tasting delicate notes in darker chocolate.
These were the steps we walked through as we tasted all 8 pieces of chocolate:
- Smell the chocolate. Does it smell fruity? Spicy? Chocolatey?
- Snap off a very small piece of the chocolate and let it simply melt on your tongue. Does it melt quickly or slowly? Is the texture smooth, oily, chalky or grainy?
- Try to detect the flavors developing at the beginning, middle and final part of the chocolate melting in your mouth. What notes are they? Fruity? Nutty? Acidic? Spicy?
We were handed sheets to make notes as needed, and we were assured that everyone’s taste buds are different, so no one is 100% correct on what the chocolate should taste like. Did I have a favorite out of the samples we tried? No, because they were all delicious to me! Each bar seemed unique in its own way, and I surprisingly even liked the white chocolate! Normally I held to the belief that white chocolate is not truly chocolate, but I was told that white chocolate is made with cocoa butter, a product of cocoa, which means it actually is properly called “chocolate.” Thanks for the enlightenment, Marisol!
After the tasting, I had learned that Amedei made their own hazelnut spread, which I will try later and talk about in a future post 🙂
It was a wonderful, relaxing night, and I hope to attend another chocolate tasting like it soon at The Chocolate House!