Things to do in Manchester

Chocolate Tasting at Hotel Chocolat, Manchester

Like most people, chocolate is one of our guilty pleasures and we like to treat ourselves to good-quality chocolate every once in a while. So when Hotel Chocolat recently invited us to learn how to properly taste and enjoy this sweet treat we keenly accepted the offer. We spent a delectable Sunday evening sampling more than a dozen chocolates and learnt about every stage of the process, from sourcing raw cocoa beans to ‘grinding’, ‘conching’ and ‘tempering’. Armed with a lot of knowledge and a newfound respect for the humble cocoa bean, we came away feeling enlightened and more than a little giddy from all the chocolate (or might that be the prosecco?!). Here’s some sweet nuggets of chocolately wisdom we picked up just for you:

  • Your first judgement when chocolate tasting should be based on sight – the best kinds will appear glossy and evenly coloured
  • Break the chocolate in half and you should hear a crisp ‘snap’, which shows it has been properly tempered
  • As tempting as it is to gobble chocolates down in one go, try to hold it on your tongue and let it melt for a few moments to get a full flavour experience
  • If you want to intensify the flavour even more, hold your nose for ten seconds while the chocolate’s in your mouth (this works for other foods too, just don’t hold your breath for too long!)
  • The ‘forastero’ bean makes up 80 per cent of the world’s cocoa crop and is thought to have originated in the Amazon
  • Cacao is the name given to the tree that produces cacao pods (we’re more familiar with the term cocoa in the UK)
  • One cocoa pod contains around 40 cocoa beans
  • A good-quality 100g bar of chocolate will use around 60 beans (1.5 pods), but many cheaper supermarket bars use just 3-4 beans per 100g, with fats and vegetable oils making up the rest
  • Raw cocoa beans are full of antioxidants and have antibacterial properties. With a savoury, slightly bitter taste, these were closer to nuts or coffee beans than the sweet chocolate we’re used to but they had an interesting flavour
  • The percentage you see on chocolate packaging refers to the amount of cocoa solids, not how dark the chocolate is
  • Some high-percentage milk chocolate contains less sugar than dark chocolate, because milk makes up some of the remaining percentage, replacing sugar
  • Our favourite chocolates of the night were the high percentage milk chocolates, like the 70% St Lucien variety. This was a bit of a revelation, as we’d ordinarily head straight for dark chocolates so we’d certainly recommend seeking these out. Yum!

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