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A Beginner’s Guide to Gourmet Chocolate

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People who are passionate about gourmet chocolate have known for a long time that they contain as much variety and flavour complexity as can be found in good wines and quality coffee. Now the general public is finally catching up, understanding that each bite can offer a unique taste experience.

Here is a short guide to help you begin describing and analysing gourmet chocolate yourself and therefore offer a higher level of service to your customers.

Regional Variety

It is the all-important cacao bean which ultimately affects the flavour of a product. The main contributing factors in taste are climate, soil and topography – the general environment, or ‘terroir’, in which the bean grows is extremely important. The three varieties of fine cacao beans - Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario – have nuances in aroma and taste which vary depending on where they grow.

Even within the Caribbean islands, for example, differences can be found. In Jamaica the cacao is light on the palate, with sweet rum and woody flavours such as cedar and juniper commonly identified in the chocolate. However, beans grown in Haiti and Grenada tend to have a certain degree of acidity. The special Forastero beans found in Ecuador have pleasant floral notes with hints of vanilla, spice, coffee and nuts. Yet, on the Cote d’Ivoire, Forastero beans have a bolder flavour with hints of leather and tobacco.

Doing some research into the chocolate you are selling can certainly help to impress. Your ability to analysis and appreciate flavour profiles from around the globe will be invaluable.

Single Origin vs. Blends

It’s a common misconception in the world of gourmet chocolate that products using single origin cacao are necessarily superior to blends. Both varieties have their strengths and deserve our attention.

• Single Origin: Single origin products can aid an understanding of the specific character of certain beans. Many of our brands are proud of their bean-to-bar trade models. For example, Madécasse’s award-winning bars use only heirloom cacao from Madagascar; 90% of their bars are made from start to finish on the island. The chocolate is flavourful, with citrus notes as well as occasional alcoholic hints of vodka and white wine. Another fantastic single origin brand is Divine, who work with a co-operative of Ghanaian farmers to produce gourmet chocolate with hints of coffee and tobacco.

• Blends: In blends, multiple single origin beans are combined to create innovative flavours. Here you can find chocolatiers using beans to build up experimental and adventurous tastes. Blends allow creators to work towards a specific taste with limitless possibilities. A gentle introduction to blended products are Venchi’s indulgent blend napolitans. These have a satisfying chocolaty bitterness with a deeper flavour of floral and vanilla notes. All four types of these gourmet chocolates are made with different percentage blends of high-quality beans and are beautifully presented in a gold gift box.

Hopefully you now feel fully equipped to start your journey as a true chocolate connoisseur, ready to convince your customers that they should choose their chocolate with as much care as they do their wine or whiskey!
About author: Desiree Michels

Angelina Moufftard works for hf Chocolates, established chocolate suppliers with decades of experience supplying sweets and gourmet chocolate to retailers across the UK. Working with the most dedicated suppliers from France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Belgium, the USA and the UK, hf Chocolates' great tasting and beautifully packaged products add panache to any sweet display.

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