Chocolate Tasting 101: How to Taste Chocolate Like an Expert

June 15, 2023


Chocolate is a tempting and decadent treat, but experts want you to know it’s more than just candy. Quality chocolate is like a fine wine with diverse tasting notes you can slow down and savor. As for unique pairings and delicious recipes? That comes with the chocolate tasting experience! 

Do you want to know how to taste chocolate at home or with friends? Our guide will teach you how to enjoy TCHO vegan chocolate bars like an expert. With professional tips and advice, you will get more from quality plant-based chocolate and make the most of an unforgettable flavor. Even if you consume a lot of craft chocolate, tasting can help you discover and appreciate its complexity and beauty. 

"It helps to understand that when done well and carefully and not just full of sugar, chocolate can be a whole new world,” says Brad Kintzer, TCHO’s Chief Chocolate Maker. “The key is to slow down and just like with wine tasting, look out for a few things and be open a world of flavor experiences."

Learn which chocolates are best for tasting like TCHO vegan chocolate bars featuring bold flavor notes of rich fudge and crisp brownie edges. There are many creative ways to enjoy the chocolate flavor, and it doesn’t have to do with snacks that are high in sugar. Taking your time with your chocolate will help you to notice just how unique each type is and how its tasting notes help to complement various food and baked goods. 

Let our experts take you through the tasting experience so you can enjoy different types of chocolate at home or on a craft chocolate-tasting tour. Over time you’ll learn what makes various chocolates unique and which ones are best for incorporating into your recipes. 

tour inside tcho lab

Discover Our Decadent Chocolate Recipes

What Are the Different Types of Chocolates? 

Every chocolate has a unique flavor and texture. If you explore different types of chocolate, you’ll see just how unique they are in color and density. Some of the most common chocolate varieties include dark chocolate and milk chocolate. 

If you think you know dark chocolate, think again. Some of our dark chocolate tastes like lush fruit, a delightful and unexpected detail for those who are new to tasting. You’ll always get a smooth and creamy texture from our oat milk chocolate and oat milk white chocolate. 

Creamy white chocolate doesn’t contain cacao but is still considered a chocolate candy. Nearly everyone has tasted semisweet chocolate chips, while bittersweet chocolate and baking chocolate are popular in most kitchens. So, why is chocolate so dense in its flavor profile? 

"Of these (cacao) beans there is a unique delivery mechanism. Cocoa butter melts slowly, so we need to take time to appreciate the denseness. Cocoa butter is very hard and slow to melt. It delivers beautiful flavors in a way that is unlike anything else," Brad says. 

Dark Chocolate 

Dark chocolate is chocolate without added milk solids. It’s chocolate in its purest and most beneficial form, especially when it’s made with quality cacao and a list of simple organic ingredients. Typical forms of dark chocolate include bittersweet, semisweet and sweet. You may also notice dark chocolate with a high cocoa percentage classified as ultra-dark or extra-dark. 

tcho chocolate flavor wheel

Our experts believe the best dark chocolate for a tasting contains at least 65% cacao. That means you’re in luck because our TCHO varieties have more than a 70% cocoa percentage. Our Holy Fudge bar has a 75% cacao dark chocolate shell, while our fruit-forward chocolate bar Born Fruity has a 72% dark chocolate shell and a tart, crisp finish. 

The tasting notes of dark chocolate range from rich and fudgy to bold and intense. If you taste bittersweet and semisweet chocolate, you’ll experience a satisfying cocoa taste in your cookies and brownies. Dark chocolate feels harder than milk chocolate with a chalkier texture. Tempered dark chocolate is rigid with a snap that makes it satisfying to break apart chocolate bars.  

Fruity Chocolate 

Some chocolate tastes different because of its cacao beans. Peru is the birthplace of chocolate. It’s also home to cacao beans that impart a smooth and fruit-forward flavor. Our TCHO Born Fruity bar is a bright and balanced treat with deep fruit notes and a hint of red wine and lush berries. As you savor the flavor, you’ll experience a sweet and crisp finish that comes from bitter and astringent dark chocolate. 

Born Fruity has a 72% cacao shell so it still includes a fudgy, intense flavor that you’ve come to know and love of other TCHO dark chocolate. It has the same snap and rigid texture, making it enjoyable to bite on a piece and enjoy it with fruit or a glass of wine. 

Dairy vs. Plant-Based or Vegan Chocolates 

The main difference between chocolate with dairy and vegan or plant-based chocolate is that they don’t contain products made with cow’s milk. If you need to avoid dairy milk, read the ingredients on all chocolate bars. Most dark chocolate does not have cow’s milk. Still, it’s beneficial to review flavored chocolate or chocolate with inclusions for the possibility of animal ingredients.  

When tasting dairy chocolate vs. plant-based chocolate, you may notice a difference in flavor highlighted by vegan ingredients like oat milk or almond milk. However, plant-based milk chocolate and vegan white chocolate are just as delicious as chocolate made with cow’s milk. Try a TCHO bar and see for yourself! 

how to savor quality chocolate

How to Identify & Savor Quality Chocolate  

Now that you know about the various chocolate types, you’re ready to identify and savor the good stuff! One way to stay on track during a chocolate tasting is to focus on the flavors and textures you’re experiencing.

"When I taste chocolate, I try to blank my mind and pretend it’s the first time I’ve ever experienced it,” Brad explains. “I open myself to any memories and the intense aromatics of chocolate. Be open and try to let yourself relax. There is no rush. In many foods we eat, the flavor may stay in your mouth for 30 seconds. With chocolate, it could take five minutes. Try to take at least two minutes to see what is that final aftertaste; what am I left with? Do I want to take another bite?"

The sweetness and sugar can be satisfying, but they’re far from the only way to tell if chocolate is a quality product! Our TCHO expert has some comments on how to savor your treats. Acting as if your chocolate tasting is wine tasting will allow you to appreciate every flavor. 

What Chocolate Should Look Like 

"In wine, you look at the colors and the legs. In chocolate, certain beans are lighter in color. Our Born Fruity is a light red, and Holy Fudge is darker. The shine and the temper are important. This can lead to a different melting property and how fast the flavors are delivered," says Brad. 

Check for signs of chocolate bloom or a grayish substance on the surface of the chocolate. This chemical reaction occurs when chocolate is exposed to warm temperatures and begins to soften. While it’s not harmful, chocolate bloom could indicate that your bar has been exposed to high temperatures. 

Explore the shape of the chocolate. Did a mold create a beautiful form for the chocolate? Does the tempering affect how tasty it looks to eat? Now examine the color of the chocolate. If it’s exceptionally dark, it likely has a higher cacao percentage. 

"You might want to break the chocolate in half, snap the chocolate pieces off and note the strength of it. Milk chocolate is going to be softer," Brad says. 

What Chocolate Should Taste Like

What Chocolate Should Taste Like 

Above all, quality chocolate should taste amazing! Chocolate quickly melts in your mouth, which means you will taste most of its flavor within 10 seconds. Take some time to let the taste wash over your tastebuds. Is it sugary? How about fruity or bitter? The remaining flavor will come through on your palate within a minute. You may notice deeper hints of cocoa or vanilla as you savor the chocolate that remains in your mouth. Take a second taste of the chocolate to notice its acidity or fresh fruit sourness. The chocolate may even taste bitter or astringent. 

Quality chocolate will taste fresh, not freezer burned. It won’t take on other flavors but those naturally occurring in the chocolate bar. It will also leave you wanting more. If you want to try another portion, reset your palate with water and a plain snack like a cracker. 

What Chocolate Should Smell Like 

As with wine, you can smell your chocolate before tasting it. Breathe in deeply and check for the difference when it’s room temperature or warmed in your fingers. Sometimes, it can be easier to enjoy the aroma when the chocolate is warm. 

"Smelling chocolate is great. Others are more muted. You should see if you notice anything," Brad says. 

Additional Expert Tips  

Look at the date on the chocolate. If the bar is past its expiration date, swap it out for another one. High-quality chocolate will help eliminate defects like bubbles or a burned taste. Brad also recommends tasting chocolate with a group. "Make it fun with friends and encourage a conversation," he suggests. 

How to Pair High-Quality Chocolate

How to Pair High-Quality Chocolate 

After you taste the chocolate, it’s time to explore your favorites with the help of chocolate pairings! It’s tasty to pair chocolate food and beverages, including fresh fruit and coffee. Chocolate with cheese is delicious, as are spirits like rum or whiskey. You can even pair chocolate with tasty toppings. Inspire your tastebuds with contrasting flavors and textures like sweet and salty or smooth and crunchy. Try some of our chocolate pairing suggestions to get started. 

"It has to be exploratory!” Brad suggests. You can see what chocolate pairs well online, but it may not be a match made in heaven. Try having nuts, dried fruits, different types of wines, cheeses, etc." 

Pairing Dark Chocolate 

The bitterness and rich flavor of dark chocolate pair well with sharp and funky cheeses like goat cheese and bleu cheese. Try an extra-dark chocolate bar with Parmesan Reggiano. Look for plant-based cultured cheeses that are always coming on the market in specialty stores or online. Or explore the fudgy and salty combination of dark chocolate with peanuts or almonds. Dark chocolate is delicious with berries like strawberries and raspberries. Blueberries and blackberries over just the right amount of sugary sweetness. Enjoy a unique twist of flavors when you pair ultra-dark chocolate with jalapeno peppers or pumpkin. 

Some of the best beverage pairings include IPAs and brown ales. Or explore the nuances of chocolate with brown spirits like rum and whiskey. “There have been combinations where it has been incredibly complex and knocked my socks off,” says Brad. 

Pairing Milk Chocolate

Milk chocolate’s creamy, sweet flavor pairs well with the nutty, creamy notes of Asiago and Gruyere cheese. Explore nut combinations like pecans and hazelnuts. Walnuts and toppings like honey and caramel are delicious with milk chocolate. Try apples and cherries with your plant-based TCHO chocolate bar. Plus, you can’t go wrong with tasting favorites like coconut or peanut butter.

As for beverages, try your milk chocolate with a coffee stout or an oatmeal stout. “Milk chocolate can go well with Chardonnay because it can have the buttery-ness,” Brad suggests. 

Pairing White Chocolate 

Now it’s time to pair your white chocolate! Citrus fruit such as oranges or limes accents the bright notes in creamy white chocolate. You can also try berries like blackberries or blueberries. Macadamia nuts and cashews are buttery enough to pair well with the rich white chocolate flavor. A unique pairing like matcha or pistachio will open your world to new taste combinations. 

Learn More About How TCHO Chocolate Is Made! Sign Up For Our Chocolate Tastings & Tours Here

tasting tcho chocolate bars

Have Fun with Chocolate Tasting 

Now it’s time to start your chocolate tasting. Pick your favorite type of chocolate and start exploring. Dark chocolate with different cacao percentages can offer a fun and themed tasting session. If you like all kinds of chocolate, go ahead and try them all!

"I love to encourage people to find their own way to explore,” Brad says. There is no right or wrong. Have fun with it! We want people to have fun with chocolate. If they are interested in it, there is a pathway to learning about chocolate in a totally new way."

TCHO has the plant-based chocolate bars you need for tasting and savoring. If our quality chocolate inspires you, we also have essential baking supplies like chocolate discs for baking and cocoa powder. Get the same delicious TCHO flavor in your desserts and baked goods as you get with your chocolate tasting. You’ll be impressed with every treat you taste and create! 


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