Chocolate tastings are about more than just eating chocolate. They’re about allowing yourself to fully experience everything this wonderful food has to offer: engaging your senses of touch, smell, sight, and hearing as well as taste, and then deepening that experience by sharing it with friends and hearing their perspectives. With all the green things growing and buds in bloom, spring is the perfect time of year to try some floral chocolates, so why not host a tasting party? Here’s how to throw a floral chocolate party that delights the senses and celebrates the season:
Gather Your Floral Chocolates
Flowers have delicate, nuanced flavors that don’t stand up well to large-scale industrial production and are best experienced in combination with high-quality chocolates. That means you won’t find too many major candy manufacturers using them. Look for floral chocolates from specialty chocolatiers or local specialists like Pittsburgh’s A519 Chocolate, where chocolatiers experiment with trending flavors from around the globe to create one-of-a-kind candies.
“That blending requires a subtle touch,” says Simran Sethi, author of Bread Wine Chocolate and host of the first chocolate podcast, The Slow Melt. “If too many flowers are added, the aroma can be overpowering and the chocolate can taste perfume-y. But when it’s done right, the scent and texture are magic.”
Rose is the most popular flower to pair with chocolate—it’s a Valentine’s Day natural—but, for a tasting party, you’ll want a mixed bouquet. Other favorites include violet, orange blossom, jasmine, and hibiscus. Amanda Wright of A519 adds that the flavor profile of the chocolates to be considered as well. For her mandarin honeysuckle truffle, she says, “I wanted to pair our chocolate”— a 64% dark chocolate sourced from Madagascar—“which has intrinsic citrus flavors, with an infusion that both enhanced and complemented these intrinsic flavors.”
Pair Your Beverages
You’ll want a few pitchers of fresh, room-temperature water for cleansing palates at the tasting table, but don’t shy away from offering some drinks that complement your chocolate! Red wine and chocolate go well together; try a Nebbiolo with rose and berry notes like the 2013 Bruno Giacosa Nebbiolo d’Alba.
A sweet, floral Moscato or a sparkling Lambrusco will be delicate enough to allow subtle flavors through and pair especially well with white-chocolate-based florals. Roses and rosés are a great combination, too, as the Roses & Rosé Chocolate Bar from Los Angeles’ Compartés showcases. For a nonalcoholic pairing (always a must), try an iced hibiscus or jasmine tea.
Create Your Space
This is where you really ramp up the sensual pleasure. A simple white tablecloth draped over your kitchen, dining, or coffee table can transform an everyday space into a clean, blank canvas.
If you have trees blossoming near you, go out and cut a few sprigs to arrange in a vase. If not, indulge in an arrangement of fresh spring flowers from your local florist. It’s a dramatic, lush touch, and you’ll get to enjoy them for days or weeks after your party ends. Sprinkle some brightly colored petals around the table to set the mood further, or drop a few (rinsed, organic) gardenia blossoms into a glass pitcher of water.
You’ll want to set your chocolate out ahead of time to bring it to room temperature. Keep it wrapped: the lush packaging of high-end chocolates only adds to their sensory pleasure! A tray of salt-free water crackers will also help with palate cleansing. A few notepads and pens will come in handy, too, as you compare flavors. Don’t forget to put on some music; chill instrumental music will add ambiance without distraction to help keep guests’ minds clear and focused on the chocolates.
Gather Friends and Start Tasting
This is the fun part! Aim for four to six guests—more than that, and the stress of hosting can overwhelm your ability to relax (not to mention breaking your chocolate budget). Sethi recommends trying your chocolates in order of intensity, from light to dark, to avoid overwhelming your palate. Go slowly—the point is to relax and take everything in!
(If you’re including children or teens in your tasting, tell them before you hand them any chocolate that you’re going to do this step by step—or it will disappear before you get started!)
Sethi’s book walks tasters through the process:
- First, unwrap your chocolate and look at it. Is it shiny or dull? Decorated? What color is it?
- Next, break a small piece off (if you’re using a bar) and listen for the snap.
- Let the chocolate warm up in your hand. The cocoa butter will begin to melt. Cup your hand a little and smell it. Inhale deeply. “Pay attention to what thoughts arise, what memories surface,” Sethi advises. “Allow for all of it.”
- Now taste the chocolate. Put a small piece on your tongue and let it melt. Notice what flavors you taste at first, as it warms, and then afterward. Notice, too, how it feels in your mouth.
- Check out the Chocolate Flavor Wheel and try to put some names to the flavor notes: Do you taste the flower? What else do you taste? What flavors seem to come from the chocolate itself rather than the floral ingredients? Do your guests notice different flavors than you do? How intense are the floral notes?
Once you’ve tasted all the chocolates, go wild—have more of your favorites, bring out a luscious cake or cupcakes (topped with candied violets, perhaps?), or enjoy another sensory treat like skincare masks and raise a toast to making it through another winter.
Floral Chocolates to Try
Rococo Chocolates, Violet, $13: organic 65% dark chocolate, violet oil
Compartés, Roses & Rosé Chocolate Bar, $9.95: white chocolate infused with French rosé wine, with crystallized rose petals
Vosges Haut-Chocolat, Les Fleurs du Chocolate collection, $45 for 16 pieces (limited edition): Platanos y Orchidas (vanilla, rum, orchid, dark chocolate); Orange Coriander (orange blossom water, coriander, bee pollen, turmeric, white chocolate); Violette (blueberry, violet, sea buckthorn oil, white chocolate); Siam Citron (jasmine tea, wildflower honey, lemongrass, coconut, marigold flower, white chocolate); Mirabelle Orange (Mirabelle plums, hibiscus powder, nasturtium petal, dark chocolate
A519 Chocolate, Mandarin Honeysuckle Truffle, $30 for 15 pieces (seasonal edition, specify flavor when ordering): dark chocolate ganache infused with mandarin orange and honeysuckle
Chuao Chocolatier, Raspberry Rose, $7: organic 72% dark chocolate, raspberries, sugared rose petals
The Tea Room, Chocolate Fusion, $3.75: jasmine green tea, tangerine, milk chocolate
Photos courtesy of Compartés Chocolate, A519 Chocolate, Rococo Chocolates and Chuao Chocolate