Blog - The Cocoa Pod Shop

Site Information

 Loading... Please wait...

7 Tips Towards Becoming a Pro Chocolate Taster

Posted by

Developing your palate for chocolate takes time and practice. Some basic knowledge about chocolate can help you develop your palate, provide you some tools to better describe what you're tasting, and help you better understand what chocolates you like and why you like them. 

Tasting Wheel, Blommer Chocolate, http://www.blommer.com/collateral/Flavor_wheel_cho...

Tasting wheels like the one shown above are often used to help describe chocolate flavors. We'll start with some of the basics here, and in future posts we'll talk more about other flavors.

All chocolates are not made equal, and below you'll find a few tips to get you started with tasting chocolate. It's easier to start out with the "off" flavors rather than the good ones. It's definitely easier to recognize the flavors you don't like first, and that's why we start with these. Below you will find a list of seven flavor categories you can use to start describing the defects you'll find in chocolate.

  • Burnt or Charcoal Flavor: this happens because either the beans were dried over an open fire, or the beans were over roasted. You might also recognize it as a smoky flavor.
  • Grassy: this flavor is present when beans are fermented in jute or burlap sacks.
  • Highly Astringent: under-fermented beans cause this, and it’s more a sensation than a flavor. Ever drank a bold Cabernet Sauvignon? Or if you really want to experience it, try sucking on a teabag. It’s that dry sensation you get around the sides of your tongue.
  • Bitter: it’s not unusual to experience mild bitterness in chocolate, but one of the signs of a good quality chocolate, starting with the beans and followed by proper processing, is low or total lack of bitterness, even in a dark (70% or higher) chocolate. If you really want to identify bitterness, try sucking on a dry uncoated aspirin.
  • Acidic: some mild acidity is fine, sometimes even welcome in your chocolate. But a lot of acidity is not a good sign. This is due to under fermented beans being used in your chocolate.
  • Meaty or Hammy Flavors: this is another defect due to over fermentation; the beans can actually begin to rot, leaving us with unpleasant notes.
  • Musty or Mildewy Notes: these are due to beans not being properly dried, or being stored in an overly humid environment.


You don’t have to wax poetic about the shoe leather, turpentine, and raspberry flavor in the chocolate.

We’re not wine snobs, and we’re not chocolate snobs either. Just trying to understand some basic facts about chocolate tasting. 

To get started with tasting and using a wheel like this, it's a good idea to pick up 3-5 bars of high quality, single origin chocolate. Bars like those from DandelionMillcreek CacaoDick Taylor, or Fruition Chocolate. We're not endorsing any of these bars here nor were we paid to mention them. There are many other makers out there so pick and choose if you have some favorites.

Next time, we’ll address some of the good stuff you want to look for. Meanwhile, enjoy your chocolate experiments.


View Comments


Terroir and Chocolate-Just a Bunch of Bananas?

19th Jun 2017     Leave a comment

I taste a lot of chocolate that comes my way. I also used to do tastings regularly several times a month for clients or tourists who came in to our shop when we lived in Ecuador. We regularly tasted the same chocolates, so it´s easy to tell if the same products really taste the same [...]

Read More

Chocolate Percentages-What Do They Mean?

19th Jun 2017     Leave a comment

You've probably heard a lot about dark chocolate, that you should eat chocolate that is 70% or higher in cocoa content. There are health benefits from dark chocolate and you want to get them. A lot of information and buzzwords are tossed around on food labels too: "raw," "gluten free," "vegan." Do any of these [...]

Read More

​5 Questions for Your Chocolate Maker

19th Jun 2017     Leave a comment

The chocolate bar section of your local grocery, special store, or retail shop is already a crowded space, and growing increasingly more so. There are new bean-to-bar brands popping up daily, new products incorporating chocolate coming out all the time, and new packaging and product selection makes distinguishing quality chocolate more and more difficult. Fierce competition for shelf space means you [...]

Read More

How Do You Define Raw Chocolate?

19th Jun 2017     Leave a comment

I get lots of requests for raw cocoa beans or products, see lots of raw claims, and continue to wonder what the *&@* raw is…you probably do too. I’ve read that foods remain raw if the food has not been heated over 118°F, or 114°F. Supposedly this protects any naturally occurring enzymes as well as [...]

Read More

How Cocoa Beans Are Made Into Chocolate

19th Jun 2017     Leave a comment

The journey the cacao bean makes, from the tree all the way to the chocolate bar on the store shelf, is a long one. But you'll have a basic understanding of what happens after you've read this post. To make chocolate, you need cacao beans, sugar, and the right equipment.Cacao beans are first harvest from [...]

Read More

What is Raw Chocolate?

19th Jun 2017     Leave a comment

Raw food products have gained a popular following among consumers and the market for raw products seems to be expanding. But there is very little clarity or definition in what is considered raw, and that goes for chocolate too. Raw really has not been defined clearly, there is no officially recognized industry organization putting a [...]

Read More

What Are Cacao Nibs?

19th Jun 2017     Leave a comment

Most people know what chocolate is-at least they know what chocolate tastes like, that it usually comes in a bar, and is considered a sweet treat in most cases. Chocolate is usually consumed by itself or in a dessert combined with ingredients to make cakes, cookies, brownies, or even some fruit desserts. Chocolate is also [...]

Read More

How to Hold a Chocolate Tasting Party

19th Jun 2017     Leave a comment

After spending seven years in Ecuador making chocolate, exporting chocolate, teaching about chocolate, leading chocolate tours to cocoa plantations and factories for consumers and industry professionals, I want to share some of that knowledge with you.  Living in Ecuador was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work, but I was happy to [...]

Read More

Where do Cacao Trees Grow?

19th Jun 2017     Leave a comment

Where do cacao trees grow? Cacao, also known as Theobroma Cacao, is a tropical plant. The growing area for cacao ranges from approximately 10° north to 10° south of the Equator. Most cacao is grown in Africa but cacao is now also cultivated in a tropical belt worldwide. The Ivory Coast and Ghana are the [...]

Read More