Basics of chocolate tasting
Pretty much everyone loves chocolate, but we often eat it without actively thinking about what we're tasting (beyond "chocolaty" and "delicious"). In fact, chocolate is among the most flavorful foods on Earth, and can display a wide range of nuances depending on the type of bean, growing location, soil, altitude, environmental conditions, when the beans were harvested, how they were processed, and so on. Chocolate from Madagascar can display tart or sour fruit characteristics; Hawaiian chocolate often exhibits nutty and caramelly notes; some Southeast Asian chocolate can reveal earthy, smoky flavors.
Chocolate tasting is about more than just flavor. Before you eat a chocolate, consider its appearance, then bring it to your nose and take few deep breaths, inhaling its aroma. Pop the chocolate in your mouth and let it melt on your tongue, rather than biting it. Evaluate the texture. Think carefully about what you're tasting, and try to come up with descriptors (you'll get better at this with practice). Do you detect tobacco? Dried fruit? Butterscotch? Hazelnut? If you're having a hard time, use a chocolate flavor wheel to get the ideas flowing. Be sure to keep thinking about the taste even after you've swallowed the chocolate: unique flavors often show up in the finish. Take notes as you do all this, and think about flavors that might complement what you’re tasting.