Do you like chocolate? If so, how do you eat it? Do you immediately bite into it, or let it melt in your mouth? Do you think much about where it comes from?
I have to admit that much as I like chocolate, I don’t always think exactly about how I eat it, which is why taking the Chocolate Decadence Walking Tour on a recent trip to Portland, Oregon, was something of an eye opener.
All the places we visited were serious about their chocolate, but especially Cacao Drink Chocolate. As the name implies, their specialty is drinking chocolate, but this is a far cry from any American hot chocolate. It was based on a Parisian recipe, with an equal mixture of chocolate and dairy, making it rich, smooth, velvety, creamy, and very chocolaty.
But they also have chocolate from all around the world, focusing on single estate chocolates, made from cocoa beans coming from the same plantation. We sampled chocolate from Ecuador, Peru, France, and more, all with their own unique flavor, even though they weren’t technically flavored chocolates. We also learned how cacao beans for all chocolate worldwide is harvested by hand, something I’ve never considered when eating it.
The woman at Cacao also gave us careful instructions on how to taste the chocolate, which is by first placing it on the tongue until it starts to melt, and then biting into it. The flavors are different in each stage, and in order to get the most out of the chocolate, it’s important to experience both.
Thinking about the people who labored so long to produce the chocolate, as well as taking a leisurely approach to eating it, allowed me to savor it in a way I often don’t. I imagine it was similar to a wine tasting, where I wanted to get the full effect of the chocolate so I could identify the subtle differences between samples, ones that were smokier, or fruitier, or nuttier.
It was a lovely ritual and an experience I plan to repeat with chocolate back home. It also makes me even more focused on getting only good quality varieties, which has great complexity of flavor, so I can get the full effect and savor the wonderful, rich experience of chocolate.