Celebrate with chocolate, celebrate chocolate itself or do both. Eagranie Yuh, author of The Chocolate Tasting Kit, as well as the popular blog The Well-Tempered Chocolatier, is happy to share her expertise.
“The Chocolate Tasting Kit (Chronicle Books, 2014) grew out of the classes as I wanted to give participants something to go home with,” says Yuh, who teaches chocolate tasting classes at Cook Culture’s Cooking School.
Yuh is also a chocolate expert and senior editor of Edible Vancouver and Wine Country as well as a Sweet Spot columnist for the Vancouver Courier. Her interactive guide to buying, tasting and appreciating fine chocolate offers ideas on how to host parties and includes flashcards, tasting notepads and keepsake envelopes.
“Chocolate is a highly complex food with more aromas and depth of flavour than coffees and even wines,” Yuh says. “Chocolate tastings are a great way to celebrate birthdays, get a group of friends together or build team rapport. It’s an inclusive activity that can be scheduled at any time of the day.”
The Chocolate Tasting Kit reaches people across the world who want to perfect their chocolate connoisseurship.
“Just recently I received some great feedback from a tasting party in the Netherlands,”
A chemist’s palate, a musician’s notes
Trained as a classical pianist with a graduate degree in organic chemistry, Yuh is ideally qualified to elucidate her subject.
“Superior chocolate has a sustained long finish. Some flavours will pleasantly surprise from the start. Others take more time and attention to build. The best ones will continue to reveal intriguing complexities even while they melt smoothly and luxuriously,” Yuh explains. “Madagascar beans evoke oboes and bassoons and an earthy flavor. Mexican beans are lighter with more flutes and violins.”
When it comes to sharing the complex nuances, the tasting kit provides flashcards as a tool to describe the taste.
“Shiny and smooth, it should snap crisp and clean,” says Yuh.
Newly expanded vocabulary in turn helps discern subtle aromas.
“It’s a fun way to start conversations,” says Yuh. “[For example], you may find yourself discovering chocolate’s subtle scents, like floral notes ranging from lavender and rose, to herbal ones of sage and mint or uncover the fruity aromas of strawberry, coconut or even grapefruit.”
From bitter to sweet, from black to milk
Choice cocoa beans are key to fine chocolates and Vancouver has its share of artisan chocolatiers who can provide a variety of quality chocolate. Yuh recommends choosing a milk chocolate containing at least 30 per cent cocoa solids or a dark chocolate with at least 60 per cent cocoa solids. In addition to cocoa beans, acceptable ingredients include extra cocoa butter, sugar and genuine vanilla.
“Start by taking five to seven varieties. Serve dark first, then milk, then white. To get more specific, start with the sweetest of the plain dark chocolates – that is, the lowest percentage of cacao – and work your way up to the strongest, or highest, percentage,” says Yuh.
Given the inherent diversity of chocolate, the many countries of origin, its rich history and social significance, the conversations around it can be fascinating.
“Chocolate is a terrific lens for many topics that might otherwise not interest people: economics, history, science, and more. I’ve taught a room of first-year university students about the science of chocolate; picky five-year-olds about nutrition; and a myriad of adults about greenwashing and sustainability. I don’t claim to be an expert in all those fields – though I have a science background – but chocolate touches on many topics, those included,” says Yuh.
For more information, visit thewelltemperedchocolatier.com.