Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Blind Tasting and the Tao of the Chocolate Society

Blind tasting makes us who we are as a chocolate society. Blind tasting removes inhibitions and prejudice and expectations. And, being the only one knowing what I am passing around, it is fun to watch people taste things blindly.

As the Chocolate Society's president and founder, I came up with the concept of the society as being a place for chocolate nerds to come together to geek out in a safe place and buzz together on theobromine. Matt Caputo and I talked at length (along with Vanessa and Nick - can't thank them enough for their input) about how to go about this geekery, and the idea of going blind made sense from the get-go.

Our first meeting in April 2010 was a blind tasting of something like 9 bars with descriptions compiled from Vanessa'a, Nick's, and my impressions of the chocolates were sampling available in random order. Then we went through and tasted each and let people look at the descriptions to see what everyone thought matched with which bar. It was a lot of fun.

Since then, we typically decide on a location or two, or a brand, and taste a wide selection of bars representing our subjects. I will (usually with some help - it is more work than it might seem) break up the chocolate bars in advance and put the sample pieces in a plastic container that is marked in some cryptic way. I like to include some chocolate bars that we will almost certainly despise. It keeps us honest. People throw out impressions, flavor notes, ideas about manufacture(r). It is fun (for me, at least) watching people find out what things are.

I usually do the tasting in groups, and I won't tell people what the bars are until we finish the group. Sometimes, I even remind everyone to bring paper and pen to record notes, and we get a lot from it.

Matt says that our meetings have helped his palate more than anything else he has done. Fine chocolate is my road into paying real attention to food, so chocolate in general has shaped the way I taste. The meetings are very enlightening, and I formulate many of my opinions with my choco-comrades. Planning the meetings gets my wheels turning thinking about what to taste. And how to taste. It gets me thinking about relationships between bars and distinctions as well.

If you haven't gone blind (we don't wear blindfold, by the way; we just don't look too hard at the samples coming around to try to retain the magic of not knowing), you should do it! If you are nearby, join us! If you are not, organize your own blind tasting. And let me know how it goes! I would love feedback about what works and what doesnt't, what pairings are meant to be, and anything new.

Make your chocolate eating fun!


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