50 chefs from around the world

The secret behind the chefs’ art of chocolate tasting and sensory language

We have always imagined pastry chefs, in starred kitchens from brasseries and bistros to nouvelle cuisine restaurants, to be the experts in chocolate tasting. After all, these demanding professionals have a huge capacity for innovation and creativity; capable of creating the most delightful chocolate creations. Many can passionately express their masterpieces in the most poetic language, easily triggering our mouth to salivate uncontrollably. How are these chefs trained to be masters in chocolate tasting?

Well, we were privileged to witness 50 chefs from around world, including world renown and award-winning artisans, undergoing the chocolate tasting ritual in Shanghai, China.

This was how the chocolate tasting ritual looked like:

It was here at the famous Le Cordon Bleu, in the heart of Shanghai. Smarten in their chef wears, the chefs started by studying the appearance of the chocolate against a white background. Some wore a blindfold to isolate their sense of touch.

The chocolate was assessed for the melting rate and pliability. The chefs also snapped the chocolate close to their ears with their eyes still closed.

chef smelling chocolate

Each took their time. After all, chocolate tasting ritual is not about eating chocolate.

After looking, touching, and listening to their squares of chocolate, the chefs moved on to smelling their samples.  Finally, the chefs tasted the chocolate – they pinched their noses, bit the chocolate and let it melt. Then, they released their noses and took a deep breath, focussing on the aromatic notes and the mouthfeel as the chocolate melted.

The Chocolate Tasting Ritual is now complete.

Engaging all five senses - to discover new dimensions of chocolate

chefs using the Barry Callebaut sensory wheel

The chefs have just participated in a full immersion into all four categories of chocolates – milk, dark, white, and - newly launched last year - ruby chocolate. The unique tasting experiences of these chocolates were truly linked to cocoa origin, cocoa varieties, product processing parameters, recipes and Barry Callebaut’s global Gourmet brands: Callebaut®, Cacao Barry® and Carma®.

Barry Callebaut’s unique chocolate tasting ritual fully engages all five senses: Sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste. It enables chocolate professionals – and consumers alike – to discover new dimensions of the chocolate experience and elevates the chocolate enjoyment to the next level.

Taste and sensory language goes hand-in-hand - for the first time ever!

Barry Callebaut Chocolate Sensory Wheel

Together with the leading global flavor house Givaudan, our cocoa and chocolate sensory scientists devoted years of extensive research to develop a cocoa and chocolate sensory language.

Resulting in the so-called Consumer Chocolate Sensory Wheel, people are now provided with  87 descriptors, which extensively cover the different flavors, textures and aromas of chocolate. The comprehensive sensory language is deeply rooted in science – and it is the first time that chocolate flavors are described in such a precise manner. Chefs all over the world can now speak a common language, and their stories will create a higher awareness of the intricate tastes and flavors of chocolate.

Renata Januszewska, Global R&D Sensory Methodologies Manager at Barry Callebaut, conducted the chocolate tasting ritual. She said, “Having a shared language and the uniquely structured tasting ritual will enable chefs to discuss their chocolate experiences with consumers and describe their uniqueness to them. It will also offer them the means to come up with even better tasting experiences, exploring new flavors and food pairing combinations.”

The Chocolate Tasting Ritual is just one of the resources, learnings and tools that we have today, that provides numerous opportunities for knowledge transfer to the chef community in China.
Denis Convert, Barry Callebaut’s Vice President for Gourmet in Asia Pacific

A taste for tradition, modernity and quality

chef seminar in Shanghai

It comes as no surprise then that the chocolate tasting ritual is a fresh new experience inspired by the age-old practice of tea tasting ceremonies in China.

The chocolate tasting ritual for 50 chefs gathering in Shanghai was held during the 7th edition of Barry Callebaut’s Global Chef Seminar in Shanghai. This city has one of the most exciting food trends in the world, while traditional flavors still reigned in the palates of locals.

For three days, these chefs had the opportunity to network and attend comprehensive thought leadership sharings with experts and peers in the industry. They equipped each other with industry insights on the latest trends, topical challenges best practices, for them to navigate and excel in the competitive and evolving pastry landscape.

Pascale Meulemeester, Barry Callebaut’s Vice President for Global Gourmet, said, “We are excited to transfer this know-how to the growing pastry chef community in China. The tea tasting ritual is symbolic of Chinese tradition. As chocolate becomes more popular among consumers in China, we believe the chocolate tasting ritual will be an exciting experience for consumers in China as well. Chinese consumers can now even better appreciate high-quality chocolates such as Callebaut, Cacao Barry, and Carma.”

Further echoing the commitment to knowledge-transfer to local communities, Denis Convert, Barry Callebaut’s Vice President for Gourmet in Asia Pacific added,” The Chocolate Tasting Ritual is just one of the resources, learnings and tools that we have today, that provides numerous opportunities for knowledge transfer to the chef community in China. Our three global gourmet brands are supported by one of the largest numbers of pastry chefs and chocolate ambassadors with our worldwide network of more than 20 CHOCOLATE ACADEMYTM centers. Pastry chefs from across the China region will find at one time and place all the tools and information they need to be competitive in today’s rapidly changing food landscape.”

Learn more about the Consumer Chocolate Sensory Wheel and the Chocolate Tasting Ritual

Hui Ern Ng

Hui Ern Ng

A millennial in the Corporate Communications team in Asia, Hui Ern is fascinated by people’s stories and how things come together in the bigger picture. She lives life looking underage and taking random hikes when there are hills around. But more often than not, she's there watching videos on the couch.

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