Palate Training: Do I taste raisin notes in my chocolate?

Palate training for raisin notes in chocolate.

Foodies and palate training geeks!  Here is another palate training exercise to sharpen your skills.

Fine chocolate often has raisin aromas or tasting notes. Do you recognize exactly which variety of raisin?  I've assembled four commonly found raisin types to taste and commit to memory as a palate training session so that in future tastings I can articulate specifically which type of raisin aroma.

Palate Training Exercise for Raisins

  • Make sure your hands, dishes, and all utensils are free of soap or detergent scents.
  • Gather 3-4 types of raisins. I used Thompson, golden, black, and currants.
  • Place them in small bowls separately.
  • Sniff each variety separately, noting the difference in scent.  You'll be amazed at the diverse aromas.  Do your best to commit each scent to memory.
  • Taste each one, one at a time, cleansing your palate between tastes. Pay attention to the different flavor notes in each. 
  • Taste again while taking a long hard look at the raisins in the bowl while you are tasting. Try to burn the image into your memory along with the flavor notes as you taste.
  • Blind test.  This works best if you are working with a partner.  Close your eyes, mix up the order of the bowls.  Taste one at a time and try to recall which raisin you are tasting just from the aroma and flavors.  Make sure to cleanse your palate between each taste. 

Tasting Notes

These are just my notes.  Keep in mind that everyone has a different palate so your tasting notes might be different than mine.

  • Thompson seedless: Classic raisin flavor. sweet. Not really very grape like at all.
  • Golden raisins: Much less sweet than Thompson raisins, instead reminds me of white grape juice. Slightly acidic. 
  • Black raisins: Big bold kid like grape flavor. Instead of more grown up flavor notes they remind me grape jelly on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in grade school, with a nice grown up dried fruit twist. I'm surprised, I thought they would be more sophisticated, like a little black dress.
  • Currants: Although sweet, tart and acidic, almost citrus. 

Chocolate with Black Raisin Notes

Not only is the Belize bar in the Volta line by Forte Chocolates a gorgeous bar, is an example of a chocolate that has huge black raisin notes.

The Belize bar by Volta

Finding Craft Chocolate at Central Market Shoreline

I took a stroll through the craft chocolate selection at Central Market in Shoreline tonight and shot a Periscope while I was there.  I was so pleased to find Ritual Chocolate, Dick Taylor, and Marou!! 

Finding craft chocolate at a grocery store keeps me coming back to that store more often. 

Link to the Periscope broadcast below.

Palate Training with chocolate. Slow down, relax, and focus.

Salt and nibs add to the texture of this bar by Pacari Chocolate.

Slow down.  Relax.  Focus.

Sounds like my plan for the beginning of every year.  In reality it is how I start my chocolate tasting each day.  At least I can stay on track for a few minutes a day ;).

Palate training and learning to taste chocolate is about you as much as it is about the chocolate.  You are training your palate to recognize aromas, flavors, textures.  Your palate is wired directly into your brain therefore impacted by emotions, stress, hormonal fluctuation as well as the obvious residual flavor notes of whatever you ate last. 

Before you begin tasting, as you cleanse your palate, breathe deeply and relax. Clear your mind and prepare to focus so that it is easier to recall and articulate aromas, flavors, and textures you've previously experienced.  Memories are an important part of those associations and easier to access when distractions are at a minimum.  I'll talk more about memory later. 

Once you are relatively calm, yet focused, then it is time to unwrap the chocolate and begin.

Today for a little more texture I unwrapped Pacari Ecuadorian organic chocolate with salt and nibs.