Chocolate has acquired a reputation over time as a food that should be avoided rather than revered. Most of the candies you find at the checkout line have very little cocoa in them, sometimes as little as ten percent. Instead they are packed with white sugar and milk solids, making them a nice occasional treat with little nutritional value. And still, millions of us consume them in vast amounts on a daily basis.
True cocoa, however has been held in high esteem since the days of the ancient Mayans. Used for spiritual and medicinal purposes, it was and still is recognized as one of the super foods of the world. The higher the cocoa content, the higher the health benefits.
How do we come to appreciate higher cocoa contents and flip our paradigm from “chocolate is bad” to “chocolate is nutritious”? The art of chocolate encompasses all of our senses; it truly is a sensory experience.
We start where we are and become present when we eat chocolate in any form. Mindfully tasting chocolate can be a rewarding experience when we slow down and appreciate it. When we are accustomed to popping it into our mouths heedlessly, we miss the adventure of skillfully tasting this super food.
Chocolate tickles the senses and the cocoa in it provides nourishment for our bodies. We want to learn to like the good stuff, right? But going from a highly processed milk chocolate to an eighty-five percent dark chocolate bar is quiet a leap. That’s why we acknowledge where we are now and begin the process of recalibrating our taste buds, moment by moment.
Let’s begin by engaging our senses and paying attention to what we are experiencing here and now. We’ll shift the emphasis to the tasting experience itself rather than reaching an anticipated end goal. Perhaps you can close your eyes, pay attention to your breath and then begin the process of tasting.
Choose the highest quality chocolate possible. Even if it is one of the popular grocery store brands, it’s a start. Our first goal is to experience chocolate in the moment, with reverence and appreciation. As we expand our awareness, we can choose higher cocoa contents and different brands to experiment with.
Rather than popping it into your mouth right away, why not take a moment to evaluate its packaging. Is it a box of truffles or a slick sleeved bar? Is there writing on the container? What does it say? In what region of the world did the cocoa grow? What is the percentage of cocoa in your candy?
Unwrap your chocolate slowly. Listen to the rustle of the paper or the crinkling of the box as you open it. Can you anticipate what you will see?
Now, ponder the color, texture and shape of your chocolate. Is it dark brown or light? Does it appear smooth or bumpy? Did the artisan design the shape or color in an unusual way? Have they added nuts or fruit? What does that look like?
Next, bring the chocolate to your nose. While some of the flavor aromas are “trapped” inside of the cocoa butter until melted in your mouth, there will be others you can detect. Do you know what they are? Can you identify them?
Then, break off a small piece. Listen. Does it snap or is it pliable? How does in feel in your fingers? Is it light? Heavy? Filled with ganache or cream?
Finally, place the chocolate on your tongue and bite into it gently but don’t chew. Try to experience the taste and not judge it as good or bad. Allow the chocolate to slowly coat your tongue and the roof of your mouth. What flavors do you taste? Is it bitter? Can you taste sweetness? A hint of salt? What sensations do you have in your mouth after you’ve swallowed? Has the taste evolved even further? Do you want to try it again or would you prefer something else?
Each time you taste, your ability to decipher new flavors and nuances grow and your appreciation of the quality expands with it.
Tasting chocolate is an experience much different than just eating it. While we don’t want to over think it, mindfully considering the elegance of chocolate can leave us feeling satisfied. It satiates our desire for sweetness and provides our bodies with nourishment. Our incessant need for more diminishes and the appreciation of what is in front of us increases.
When we contemplate art, we do it slowly and appreciatively. Quality chocolate is an art form worthy of our presence and full attention. The feeling of happiness and well-being grows when we acknowledge appreciation in our lives. Appreciating the chocolate in our lives is good for us and assists us in making the leap to finer and higher quality with each mindful taste.