Posted by / Category French food /

I might be French,  but I could totally live without wine or cheese. But not without chocolate. Chocolate is the one thing that I need to get going. And coffee, come to think of it. I have always loved chocolate. And I always will. That’s just who I am. I have also learned, over time, that quality matters more than quantity. So when I was offered to try To’ak aged chocolates, I didn’t hesitate and went for a try. It didn’t disappoint. Simply put, it was a fantastic start of the day!

But I need to come clean first: I didn’t know that you could age chocolate. I thought that chocolate had to be eaten, you know, as soon as possible. But no, chocolate is a bit like wines (well, fine French wines obviously): some flavours reveal themselves over time. It’s all about knowing how to appreciate them, and also taking the time to do so.

So here it is: before you scoff all the chocolate in your kitchen, you need to take a moment to learn how to get the best from your tasting experience. In fact, every stage of the chocolate making process has an impact on the final flavour. Natural factors such as the cocoa variety, soil conditions and climate are just the beginning. How the cocoa farmer treats the beans during the fermentation and drying process can have a marked impact on the flavour of your chocolate. And then roasting the beans can have an even bigger impact.

These little differences are one of the great things about small batch bean to bar chocolate. Every batch will have subtle differences. This is how I found myself, on a cold Tuesday morning smelling and eating cocoa beans, and cocoa aged in various types of wood. And I wasn’t trying any type of chocolate, I was trying the Nacional Ecuadorian beans. I had always thought that the Mayan had invented chocolate as we know it, but apparently I was wrong. This one cocoa bean was even older.

I tried to use the wooden tongs that were provided to get the chocolate to my mouth but I must admit that it was harder than it looked. I have dropped them a few times. That’s just me. As it melts, the different types of chocolates started to release various flavours. It usually started with a strong, earthy note, and was followed by some lighter notes. Sometimes a bit like black cherries (in my view, I am not sure that it is what I was supposed to taste), and other times something more Mediterranean, like laurel, olive oil or rosemary. Obviously you could still taste the chocolate, and the other favours came later, which was amazing. I didn’t know that you could appreciate chocolate like that. Guilty as charged.

To’ak co-founder Carl Schweizer

The amazing thing, in my view, is that the aged chocolate takes flavours from the wood. Unbelievable, right? Well, I can assure you that it does. And I am no expert (I just happen to be French). I thought such chocolates would be a fantastic way to end a meal (I don’t like cigars and strong alcohols anyway). The only problem? The price: between US$ 300 & 370 a bar. That said, if you can try it, please do. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was, well, a different experience!

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