Unravelling the taste of chocolate
Unravelling the taste of chocolate
Barry Callebaut has introduced a sensory language and tasting ritual for chocolate, which will enable brands and artisans to help consumers further appreciate chocolate. In this month’s cover story, we look at exactly what this entails, and detail the new book that the sensory language is based on.
Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate products, has introduced a sensory language and tasting ritual that will help chocolate professionals and consumers to understand and express the richness of chocolate taste. Cocoa and chocolate sensory scientists from Barry Callebaut and the leading global flavour house Givaudan did ex- tensive research to develop a chocolate sensory language and tasting ritual, inspired by what has already been created for wine, coffee and craft beer categories. The chocolate sensory language finds its foundation in the book Hidden Persuaders in Cocoa and Chocolate. A Flavor Lexicon for Cocoa and Chocolate Sensory Professionals, which was presented at the recent ISM fair in Cologne.
Satisfying consumer curiosity about chocolate
Pablo Perversi, Chief Innovation, Quality & Sustainability Of- ficer of the Barry Callebaut Group, says: “More and more consumers, and especially millennial foodies, share their expe- riences on social media. They are increasingly curious about food and taste. But while wine, coffee and craft beer could already be tasted, described and discussed in a rigorous and professional way [more on this below], we lacked a language that did justice to the richness and complexity of chocolate experiences. Containing over 20,000 identifiable chemical compounds, cocoa is one of the most complex foodstuffs on earth. The sensory language that we have developed for choc- olate, will allow consumers to share their passion for a specific chocolate taste much more accurately”.
Pairing cocoa and chocolate sensory research with consum- er understanding, Barry Callebaut developed the Consumer Chocolate Sensory Wheel with 87 descriptors, covering the flavour, texture and aroma of chocolate. A Chocolate Tasting Ritual requires the five senses – sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste – and enables chocolate professionals and con- sumers to discover new dimensions of chocolate experience and appreciate chocolate even more.
Trying to match coffee and wine experiences
Looking at existing ‘flavour languages’ beyond chocolate – such as existing practices with coffee and wine – helped Barry Callebaut to develop an appropriate tasting process for chocolate.
If you look at the coffee flavour experience, for example, when a consumer enters a coffee shop, they immediately see an existing culture of coffee having different flavours. There are Christmas drinks, origin beverages, and many other different products that offer sweet, smokey and spicy notes from which the consumer can choose their preference. By combining with milk (or not), there are a wide variety of tasting experiences that the customers can enjoy on each of their visits, and aro- mas and visuals that can appeal to all of the senses.
Likewise with the wine experience, which is even more developed thanks to a variety of different grape types, there is
a solidified tasting culture of sampling wine from the glass. Those drinking will first smell the wine before taking a sip,
and will often try before they buy. Wine has a rich history as a drink, but this renowned tasting practice is a lofty ambition that Barry Callebaut ultimately seeks to replicate with its chocolate
language and experience. A recent publication titled Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine was targeted specifically at those seeking to heighten their experience and appreciation of wine, and the book is now a New York Times best seller, showing how popular tasting experiences truly are today.
The idea of the chocolate language is to inspire a pre-existing consumer curiosity. Barry Callebaut firmly believes that by expe- riencing these products to the full, consumers will really begin to appreciate them more. With the new initiative, they will expect different flavours of chocolate from now on too, rather than the typical flavours they have become accustomed to.
The tasting ritual and sensory language are available online at solutions.barry-callebaut.com. A training course and a more in-depth introduction is offered to customers of Barry Calle- baut: chocolate brands and soon to chefs via Barry Callebaut’s chocolate academies.
Barry Callebaut shares with their customers the full complexity of whole cocoa beans, how they are grown and processed into the chocolate, and how they share different flavours. It’s this story-telling approach that Barry Callebaut believes will heighten the experience and make all the differ- ence, but ultimately it will be up to the brands and chefs to decide what works best and how to introduce these chocolate experiences to consumers.
There were many tasting sessions taking place at this year’s ISM exhibition in January, and consumers on the stand were very inquisitive about the new tasting concept. During these sessions, Barry Callebaut presented visitors with nine different chocolates – with a range of milk, dark and white, each with vari- ances in the cocoa content and differences in cooking methods – and set about the experience in some very unique ways. It’s all about ‘taste, aroma and mouthfeel’, the company believes, noting that we don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are – including our backgrounds, preferences, and characters etc.
The first sense to experience the chocolate products during the tasting session is, of course, the eyes, as consumers initial- ly judge the colours and texture to form their first impression. Then, Barry Callebaut asked the visitors to hold the chocolate in their hand to feel the product and see how soft it is and if
it melts, as some chocolates are a lot creamier than others. Next, visitors put the chocolate up against their nose to take in the aroma, and following this, they were advised to place the chocolate in their mouth while holding their nose – ensuring that the taste is solely attained via the mouth.
This exercise really helped chocolate lovers to appreciate the products they are consuming, and in a completely different way – and it’s this type of experience that will really heighten people’s overall enjoyment, the company believes.
The science behind the unraveling of the taste of chocolate
To further aid with the tasting experience, a new book has been released titled Hidden Persuaders in Cocoa and Choco- late. A Flavor Lexicon for Cocoa and Chocolate Sensory Pro- fessionals. This is the first science-based publication on how to create a sensory language for the chocolate industry.
Cocoa and chocolate sensory scientists worked for two years on this chocolate language. The book features molecular in- sights into the compounds related to each flavour you can find in chocolate and contains a science-based categorisation of taste, various aromas, as well as trigeminal sensations – such as the coolness of mint or the tingling of sparkling water – and atypical flavours.
Renata Januszewska, author of the book and Global R&D Sensory Methodologies Manager at Barry Callebaut, explains: “The book’s ambition is to help switching from an often ‘sub
conscious/emotional’ to a more ‘conscious/analytical’ approach in the complex world of cocoa and chocolate. Having a shared language will not only enable brands to discuss their chocolate with consumers and describe its uniqueness to them, but it will also offer them the means to come up with even better tasting experiences and new taste and food pairing combinations.”
The book has been reviewed by external reviewers and is distributed by academic publisher Elsevier. It was presented for the first time during the ISM trade fair in Cologne and has been available since February.
Author Renata Januszewska, Ph.D. in Applied Biological Sciences, was supported by the leading global flavour house Givaudan and Barry Callebaut’s team of cocoa and choco- late scientists, amongst them Global Sensory Lead Frédéric Depypere (Ph.D. in Applied Biological Sciences and author of about 50 scientific articles and book contributions), GC-MS Specialist Isabelle Van Leuven (Ph.D. in Bioengineering, who has more than 20 years of expertise in aroma research of dif- ferent food matrices) and Consumer Market Insight Manager Karin Loobuyck.