For the next two weeks we are going to reflect on the importance of TIME in craft chocolate. For consumers it’s about ‘taking your time’ to savour (and we’ll focus here this week). For makers, time is – in the words of Jenny Linford – the “missing ingredient” (and again, we wholeheartedly recommend her book on this, see here and below). And next week we’ll explore how time is a crucial element at every stage of growing, and crafting, chocolate.
And it’s also time for us to go back on Sunday Brunch this weekend! Please see below for the bars from Bare Bones, Dormouse and Zotter we are going to be tasting. We’re on at around 11.20am UK time. And I’ll try to explain some of the ideas below, and a little about the history of celebrating Easter with chocolate.
Humans’ Unique Second Sense of Smell and Flavour
We humans are unique in being able to detect flavour through both our noses and our mouths. Other animals – cats, dogs, etc. – can detect flavour by sniffing, but once they have something in their mouths they can’t detect its flavours. This explains why, for example, dogs wolf down their food but humans (should) savour. Indeed it may well be that this unique human skill of savouring food in our mouths (technically called retronasal olfaction) is what gave rise to cooking and, arguably, civilisation.
Craft chocolate is all about length and depth of flavour. It is designed to be savoured. By contrast, mass produced confectionery is designed to be scoffed. It’s about the sugar hit and ‘bliss point’ (see the blog, or come to a virtual tasting, for more on this).
The Complexity of Flavour
Our ability to detect the flavours of, and savour, craft chocolate is remarkably complex. Indeed, it was only in 1991 that the basic mechanics of our olfactory system were worked out, winning Linda Buck and Richard Axel a Nobel Prize for their pioneering work. Detecting flavour is a skill; the more you practise the better flavour-detective you become and the whole process subsequently becomes more fun as you appreciate the complexity of flavour profiles more and more. And it’s definitely worth savouring, and comparing notes, with other people. Often they will pick out other flavour notes and dimensions that you may not have initially identified, but after they’ve shared their insights you too can start to savour these notes.
This is one of the great advantages of virtual tastings where we encourage everyone, in real time, to share their (anonymous) impressions (see here for an example). And as our recent tastings with Simon Rimmer and Steve Tapril on gin and with Ida and Rebecca of Corney & Barrow on wine show, this approach works well for gin and wine as well as craft chocolate.
The Flavour Wave
It’s also interesting to note the changing sensations, textures and flavours as you savour your craft chocolate. Detecting flavours is not like, for example, looking at a picture or photo and being immediately able to observe lots of different colours, features and dimensions. Even expert wine tasters, coffee graders and perfume ‘noses’ struggle to identify more than 3-5 flavour notes at any one moment (this is called the Laing limit after work done by David Laing in the late 1980s).
However what you can do is detect different flavours (and tastes and textures) over time. So given the amazing differences that evolve as you savour craft chocolate, it really helps to think of a journey or flavour wave (indeed the same is true for wine, coffee and perfume). See here for the Flavour Wave we developed with Professor Barry Smith, James Hoffmann and Rebecca Palmer. And it’s this we use in all our virtual tastings, enjoying the flavours and sensations as they merge across one another and evolve, using the magic of time to savour and enjoy.
Thanks for your support, hope to see you at a Virtual Tasting or Craft Chocolate Conversation soon (see here).