There's A Lot More To Tasting Chocolate Than Just Eating It

Richart Macarons

I’m usually satisfied with a plain Hershey’s bar, but I do know good chocolate when I taste it. I was definitely in the company of good chocolate when I sat down for a private chocolate tasting with Michel Richart, the genius behind Paris-based chocolatier Richart.

Richart stands by the belief that chocolate should bring pleasure to the taster, the same belief his father Joseph Richart had when he started the company in 1925.

The chocolatier has gained some serious accolades for his work: National Geographic’s Inside Travel named him one of the world’s top chocolatiers, and has been awarded the Ruban Bleu, France’s most prestigious confectioner’s honour, a total of seven times.

Richart has several retail locations in Paris, but in the U.S., his sweets can be found at Gastronomie 491 on New York City’s Upper West Side.

During our private tasting, Richart walked me through his unique five-part method of tasting and enjoying his chocolate and macarons, giving me a real joie de vivre. It turns out there’s a lot more to tasting chocolate than just stuffing your face.

The first level is presentation. Richart said like with any art, you need to set the stage.

The temperature, humidity, organisation of the product on the table, and even the light in the room can give the product more or less pleasure. We had these chocolates at room temperature in a moderately lit, dry space.

The second level is knowledge. The more information you have about what you're tasting, the more you taste. It's the specifics that create the experience. You taste the story behind a chocolate, which becomes more charged in your mind, Richart said.

For example, Richart asked how we would feel differently if he only told us that these were Venezuelan chocolates, versus Venezuelan chocolates from a family-owned plantation run by an older couple who hand pick the cacao beans. The information produces entirely different results.

Sensory Analysis is the third level. We each have five senses, but we use them differently at different times. Still, we have to use each of them at some point, and that goes for tasting chocolate as well.

Richart said it's important to recognise and identify the stimuli received during the tasting experience.

Your heart is the boss, Richart said, explaining that when you taste, you should let the chocolate conjure and wake up memories and emotions. Richart said to relax and wait for the chocolate to tell you what you feel.

The last level is Overall flavour. This is the ultimate summary of the experience, Richart said, the first four levels combined.

Together they build something that is difficult to explain, but he said it's import to try. When you can describe the moment in which you taste the chocolate, you increase its value.

As an added bonus, I got to apply the QuintEssence method to Richart's unfinished 2013 fall and winter prototypes, which will be made with fillings like chestnut, apple, and black truffle. I went for the good stuff: the black truffle. The truffle flavour was definitely there, though it wasn't overpowering, and it went unusually well with the rich chocolate. It reminded me of a cozy fireplace.

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