Jonathan Grahm of Compartes Chocolatier

Meet a Master Chocolatier
There's no better way to enjoy chocolate than by hosting a chocolate tasting for you and some of your favorite friends. Jonathan Grahm of Compartes Chocolatier in Los Angeles offers his four tips for choosing chocolates for a tasting party.
White, dark and milk chocolate

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Taste All Kinds and Colors of Chocolate
At Compartes, we do mostly dark chocolate, so I suggest choosing different flavors or brands of dark chocolates for your tasting at home. Traditionalists may want to add in a bit of good milk chocolate or even some white chocolate (although it is not a chocolate at all) to the mix of the chocolate tasting.

When tasting different types of chocolate such as dark, milk and white, I suggest breaking them up into sections since the dark chocolate is going to be the strongest in flavor profile, while the white would be the weakest.
Map of chocolate regions

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Chocolate from Various Regions
Chocolates from around the globe are all the rage these days. You can find chocolates from all different regions in the Americas such as Trinidad, Ecuador, Venezuela (which is one of my personal favorites and one I use a lot at Compartes), Columbia and Costa Rica, to name a few.

Regional single-origin chocolates from places in Africa such as Ghana, Madagascar, Tanzania, Nigeria and the Congo region are also very popular. While chocolates from regions in Asia such as Papua New Guinea may be harder to find, they are available as well. You can pick up these "single-origin" chocolates in good health food stores, a local Whole Foods market or online for a fun way to compare the flavors based on where the chocolate is grown and cultivated.
Chocolate and wine

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Try Chocolates Based on Cacao Percentage
You can get a bunch of different dark chocolates that have different percentages of cacao in them for an interesting tasting experience. I suggest starting with the lowest percentage of cacao and making your way up to the highest. 

Did you know that 100 percent cacao, with no sugar at all, has a taste that is more bitter than coffee and some may compare it to burnt coal? My favorite chocolates are always around the 75 to 78 percent cacao range. With this kind of tasting, you can also pair several wines to match the strength of the cacao in the chocolate.
Different flavors of truffles


Explore Exotic Chocolate Flavors
This is my favorite type of chocolate tasting and one I partake in the most often. At Compartes, we do tons of different ganaches or truffles with different all-natural flavor infusions, and I always think this is the most fun way to do a chocolate tasting since you get so many different and unique flavors and flavor profiles while tasting.

There is a broad range of chocolates that can be used in tastings based on flavor. Examples of interesting choices would be chocolates flavored with pepper (like a Mexican hot chocolate truffle or raspberry pink pepper), salt (such as our smoked salt or fleur de sel caramels), exotic fruits (such as kaffir lime or umeboshi plum), teas (like jasmine tea or earl grey) or a multitude of different flavor variations. Truffles or ganaches are my favorite to try for a flavor-based chocolate tasting, but chocolate bars (with exotic ingredients) are also a great way to go.

Overall, have fun and choose interesting combinations and varieties that have distinct flavor profiles that stand out and you are guaranteed a great afternoon or evening with friends and a whole lot of chocolate. Enjoy and happy eating!

Try Jonathan's recipe for English Toffee