Chocolate Tasting 101 @ Dandelion Chocolate

A real chocolate connoisseur uses all of their senses to taste chocolate. First, they examine the chocolate and look for imperfections, as well as assess the color and the shape. They will then run their fingers over the chocolate and press it between their pincer fingers to see how it feels. They will then smell the chocolate, putting it right up to their deeply inhaling nostrils. They will hear the chocolate - yes, chocolate makes a noise when it is snapped- to give testimony to the success or failure of the tempering process. Finally, they will taste the chocolate. The melting point of chocolate is between 86-90 degrees Fahrenheit. That being said, there is no need to chomp on that nice piece of chocolate. Instead, clear your palate, place it on top of your tongue, and let it melt.

I have worked with Gourmet Walks as a Chocolate Tour Guide for nearly 5 years now. My love (or addiction) for chocolate and quest for knowledge on chocolate-making is boundless. Even though some may consider me a "chocolate expert", I was excited to take this Chocolate 101 course at Dandelion Chocolate Factory in San Francisco's Mission District, to deepen my knowledge on chocolate making and tasting.

The taste test: (almost) all of the bars made at Dandelion are made with 70% cocoa and no milk products added.

The taste test: (almost) all of the bars made at Dandelion are made with 70% cocoa and no milk products added.

Our two chocolate experts (on the right) guided us through Chocolate 101.

Our two chocolate experts (on the right) guided us through Chocolate 101.

The tastings are out! We drank a lot of water to help cleanse our palate inbetween bites.

The tastings are out! We drank a lot of water to help cleanse our palate inbetween bites.

Our guide put cocoa nibs put through a heavy duty grinder to make a pure cocoa paste. This process is similar to how you would make a nut butter. The paste had a very grainy texture and tasted bitter because no sugar or other ingredients were added to it during this stage.

Our guide put cocoa nibs put through a heavy duty grinder to make a pure cocoa paste. This process is similar to how you would make a nut butter. The paste had a very grainy texture and tasted bitter because no sugar or other ingredients were added to it during this stage.

These are the typical ingredients that you will find in various different types of a chocolate bars: nibs, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, cocoa powder, powdered milk, sugar, and vanilla. We did a blind tasting and guessed which of these ingredients we thought was in each of the bars we tasted.

These are the typical ingredients that you will find in various different types of a chocolate bars: nibs, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, cocoa powder, powdered milk, sugar, and vanilla. We did a blind tasting and guessed which of these ingredients we thought was in each of the bars we tasted.

l put all of the ingredients on my plate for a taste test. Alone, some of these ingredients are quite unappetizing. However, together, certain combinations can make great chocolate.

l put all of the ingredients on my plate for a taste test. Alone, some of these ingredients are quite unappetizing. However, together, certain combinations can make great chocolate.

Hands on learning.

Hands on learning.

Surprising our taste buds.

Surprising our taste buds.

Nicole tasting all of the chocolates, right to left.

Nicole tasting all of the chocolates, right to left.

We tasted everything from 100% cocoa bars to chocolate-flavored candy.

Cutting into a fresh cocoa pod. The dark one on the grate is a dried cocoa pod.

Cutting into a fresh cocoa pod. The dark one on the grate is a dried cocoa pod.

Conching the chocolate to make it extra smooth.

Conching the chocolate to make it extra smooth.

The many happy faces of Nicole smelling and tasting freshly made, Dandelion chocolate.