I’ve been elbows-deep in chocolate for two weeks now as I wrap up a chocolate chip cookie experiment for The Takeout. You’d think I’d be sick of the stuff, but I still dream of rich, creamy truffles and crunchy, complex Tanzanian nibs. That’s why I was so delighted by a chocolate-themed segment that aired on NPR’s Life Kit yesterday. The segment features Simran Sethi, author of the book Bread, Wine, Chocolate and creator of chocolate podcast The Slow Melt. In the segment, Sethi interviews Dr. Darin Sukha, who oversees flavor and quality at the University of West Indies’ Cocoa Research Centre. The segment is all about how to purchase, taste, and savor craft chocolate like a pro.
In the segment, Sukha tells Sethi:
“For me, craft chocolate or bean-to-bar chocolate celebrates the sense of place from where those beans came from to create an experience through chocolate to transport that person to the place where it came from. So you would hear these exotic words like Tanzania, Madagascar, and you would have in your mind certain mental imagery. And then you have the chocolate to go with that, which is actually very different to what you get when you consume, let’s say, a Hershey bar. It’s not less satisfaction. It’s just a different kind of satisfaction you get.”
Sukha goes on to explain that the concept of terroir, typically applied to wine, also applies to cocoa. And the best way to experience that terroir is to assess your chocolate from a holistic perspective—for example, looking closely at your chocolate’s ingredients. “The higher percentage of cocoa solids is more bitter, more astringent, but also more intense,” Sukha says. From there, you can assess your chocolate’s official certifications. “So basically, there’s assurances that the chocolate that you’re buying was produced in a certain way in terms of the sourcing of the beans,” Sukha says.
Finally, you taste it. Sukha walks Sethi through the tasting process in the segment—a process that includes touching the chocolate, snapping off a bit of the chocolate, using your tongue and the roof of your mouth to really taste the chocolate. “Craft chocolate is meant to be savored, not scarfed,” Sethi says in the segment. “So take your time. Take it in with all your senses, and let it be your passport to the world.”
Listen to the full segment or read the transcript on NPR’s website.