Sunday, January 1, 2012

What is a Chocolate Connoisseur?

Step 1 of My Plan to Become One: A month of unsweetened chocolate!

I am always asking myself: what, or rather who, is a chocolate connoisseur?  What would a person have to do to become one? Go to chocolate-making school? Perhaps, but that alone could not be enough.

Experience in tasting a lot of chocolate would be necessary as well. In order to be a connoisseur, you would need to try many, many kinds of chocolate, both good and bad. And different kinds of chocolate made from different beans from all regions of the world. So in theory, you could get a Master Chocolatier certificate and make beautiful showpieces, truffles, chocolate bars and filled chocolates, but not be a Chocolate Connoisseur...at least until you've gained more experience in tasting.

Also, should travel be a requirement to becoming a proper Chocolate Connoisseur? Would I have to travel to every region in the world and taste local chocolate from each?  Or could I get away with just visiting the main ones, like Europe's hottest chocolate spots, including France, Switzerland and Belgium? And should a Chocolate Connoisseur have travelled to cacao plantations across the world in those wonderfully warm locations where cacao is grown?  If so, how many plantations...is one enough, maybe two, or even 10 or 20?

Certainly I am not a Chocolate Connoisseur, according to my own standards. I have neither a certificate nor have I travelled to every corner of the world to taste chocolate.  I do, however, have courses in chocolate making and have gained quite a lot of tasting experience over the last ten years.  I have travelled quite a bit and made a point of seeking out chocolate in every region that I have visited.  I've even devoted entire trips to seeking out all of the chocolate within the region I was visiting.
Although my ultimate goal is to be a 'proper' Chocolate Connoisseur one day, I fear that I never will be.  I have set the bar too high and it would be impossible to meet the standards that I have set for myself to become one. However, I do plan to take it one step at a time and enhance my learning through actions that I think will get me closer to my goal.

The first step is one I have been thinking a lot about lately.  I do not think I can officially become a Chocolate Connoisseur until I learn to like (or at least be able to taste and compare without cringing) pure cacao chocolate.  I'm talking about chocolate with +90% cacao solids...all the way up to 100%.

So I have decided to tackle that task 'right off the bat' in 2012 and make January a month without sugar.  Well, reduced sugar at least. I am devoting the entire month of January to tasting only very dark, very bitter, chocolate. I do plan to acclimate myself to it though.  Week 1, which started today, is devoted to chocolate between 70% and 80%, then in Week 2 I will only eat chocolate between 80% to 90% and Weeks 3 and 4 will involve me only tasting chocolate between 90% and 100% (yuck?).  With all the sugary treats I just consumed during Christmas time (like my annual After Eight chocolate binge), I think I need to start at 70% and work my way up in order to get used to the bitterness.  I think if I started with 100% super-bitter chocolate , I might just give up on the first day!

So there it is.  I have decided to be a Girl Gone Dark and Bitter. Well, for the month of January at least. 

I've also decided to cut out all other additional sugar (other than naturally occurring sugars in fruit and other foods) so that I am fully used to the bitterness that I am expecting in the final two weeks of only eating +90% chocolate.  I have purchased a variety of chocolate, from lower quality to very fine chocolate so that I can identify good quality versus bad.

So maybe I sound crazy.  But we all have our goals in life that we must tackle, and this happens to be one of mine.  So if you are the slightest bit curious about what it is like to (1) drop sugar for a month and (2) eat only the most bitter of chocolates and learn to like 100% unsweetened chocolate (this is only a theory at this point, I may not actually learn to like it!), please feel free to follow me via my blog, Twitter or Facebook.  I will have weekly blog posts called "Diary of a Girl Gone Dark and Bitter" and my regular posts, like Sipping Sundays in Snowland or plain old chocolate bar reviews.  The only difference is that there will be no writing about chocolate below 70% cacao content.

Thanks for reading my ramblings today.  If you would like to read on, click here for my diary of Day 1.

5 comments:

  1. What a great idea! You're certainly well on your way to being a connoisseur. I also don't know what it takes to be considered a connoisseur and who makes the definition, so I don't know if I am one either. But I do think I'm an aficionado since the definition is:
    "a person who likes, knows about, and appreciates a usually fervently pursued interest or activity"

    Have fun on your adventure! BTW, the folks at the wonderful chocolate store Cocova in Washington D.C. recently told me that the Pralus 100% bar is the best seller in the store! Go figure.

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  3. Now that you've finished your bitter adventures in 80-100% chocolate I have an award for you. Please kneel.

    I hereby dub thee a "Chocolate Connoisseur"!

    (You may rise.)

    So now it's official and you are allowed all of the rights and privileges that this coveted title entails. If anyone ever asks if you're a connoisseur just point back to this day and tell them that you are one because ChocoFiles declared it so. Congratulations!

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  4. I too have become kind of a chocolate connoisseur. I think it started with Target's Choxie sample selection with different cacao percentages and from various cocoa-growing countries, Peru, Ecuador, Ghana, ect. The thing I found so interesting is how the cocoa plants take flavors from things around them (berries, coffee, bananas, ect). I recently traveled to South America, (Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil), and had the chance to try some wonderful fresh chocolates from the source! Ironically, even though I loved the chocolates processed near the growing site, I have a dear friend from Brazil, who likes chocolates made in America more! Anyway, I was wondering if anyone knows of any similar sample set with chocolates from various countries. Target seems to have discontinued their Choxie line.
    Thanks for any help!
    Mike, New Jersey (just 15 miles from the Port of Camden, NJ, the largest cocoa importer in the United States!)

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