I really enjoyed my first experience at The Cocoa Room by Kerstin’s Chocolates, and having heard that they offered an inexpensive chocolate tasting every month for just $15, I jumped and registered for the next available date in April. So on Friday, Amanda and I headed to the subterranean Cocoa Room and joined eleven other people at this unique event.
I was happy to see that Nina, the clerk that made my initial visit such a positive one, would be leading the session. A former teacher from Germany, she was enthusiastic and eager to impart her knowledge onto the group. To start, Nina explained how the evening would unfold – she would open with a lecture on the history and process of making chocolate, and then we would be provided with samples to taste.
The lecture lasted about forty minutes, and was more detailed than I was expecting – from the very particular conditions the cacao tree (which apparently looks more like a tall bush) need to grow, to the European discovery of the beans and subsequent experimentation, and finally, the modern methods of chocolate creation. This last portion was most interesting to me – I had no idea the process behind chocolate making was so lengthy and labour intensive, from the initial harvest to fermentation, to roasting, crushing, grounding, conching, and finally – tempering by the chocolatier. Nina also said that although the trend is now towards fair trade chocolate, Kerstin’s has found such chocolate to be of poor quality at this time, but are partaking in direct trade with chocolate makers (they purchase Criollo chocolate from Swiss manufacturers).
Amanda was eager to get on with actual eating of chocolate, so by the time Nina brought out lemon water and crackers to act as palette cleansers, she was rearing to go. We were handed pencils and a simple chart to keep track of our initial impressions of the different chocolates, and were asked to record details regarding the chocolate’s aroma, flavour, and texture. Nina recommended that we incorporate air into our mouths as we chewed the chocolate (like with wine), and prompted us to consider hints of tobacco, fruit, and liqueur in the samples. Perhaps it could be attributed to the power of suggestion, but I did start to recognize subtle flavours like cherry and what tasted to me like blue cheese(!) in some of the different pieces.
Amanda and I had different preferences – she liked the milk while I leaned towards the dark chocolates. My favorites ended up being their in-house Chocophilia Venezuela (65% dark) and a very cool “2007 vintage” single-plantation dark chocolate from Trinidad & Tobago.
While I thought gift-wrapped toothbrushes would make ideal parting gifts, what they gave was even better – everyone at the tasting was entitled to a 15% discount on all products that day. I picked up bars of the Venezuela as well as the Hazelnut Crunch to try (while both are very good, nothing can top the aromatic Mocha Bean).
I would definitely recommend the chocolate tasting – it would make a great alternative date venue, night out for girlfriends, and of course, excite any chocoholic. Although the next available date won’t be until September (when it’s cooler, and a more ideal temperature for the tasting), it’s well worth the wait!