Part of a massive culture across Europe, the concept of a chocolate tasting club has now made its way to Mumbai. Patrons can sign up to receive monthly packages of sweet treats carefully selected from across boutiques in Europe, away from mass-production and artificial sweetening.
A chocolate maker holds a chocolate ball at a stand of the 17th Salon du Chocolat (chocolate fair) in Paris. (AFP)
Members of the club, Cvado 1502, will also have access to information on gourmet chocolate and tips on how to appreciate it. They can attend workshops and previews, and even travel to Valrhona in France to see chocolatiers at work or visit cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast and South America among other places.
“Our concept is simple — variety, access and fresh chocolates,” says Pankaj Nagori, owner and founder of the club. “Indians have moved on from trying chocolates from Grand Place in Brussels to the Champs Elysées stores. Since we all travel nowadays, we have, at some point, sampled gourmet chocolate. Here, we’re making it accessible.”
Since its launch in February, the club has already attracted 50 members, who will receive monthly boxes of ten chocolates — a varying range of pralines, ganaches, truffles and bon bons — delivered within days of their production, and never repeated in a future selection.
“We try to include a balance of dark, white and milk chocolate with different types of fillings. Collections are created after sampling creations from a cadre of chocolatiers in Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK,” explains Pankaj.
Trial memberships for budding aficionados for one month are available at R1,950, while a regular membership would set you back by R2,600 per month.
Take a bite, chew for a few seconds, then stop. Allow it to melt to release all the flavours. Always ensure that the chocolate is spread all around your mouth — not just one side. This way you can taste all the flavours intensely. Good chocolate should always have harmonious tastes. Tinges of bitterness and acidity are signs of a good chocolate, but astringency is associated with poor quality.
Smell the chocolate
Your nose does 90 per cent of the tasting job. Relish the aroma before biting into it. Good chocolate won’t have the overpowering smell of vanilla or sugar.
Becoming a chocolate connoisseur
1. Fresh chocolate that hasn’t been stored for months is best. And that means no artificial preservatives, and the
chocolates must be made, and consumed quickly.
2. Good chocolate has a smooth, shiny surface indicating that the cocoa butter in it is well tempered. Colour depends on a lot of factors, so don’t be swayed by it.
3. The flavour of a good chocolate lingers for minutes. A little sugar enhances the flavour, large quantities drown it. Try
a 90 per cent bar to spot the difference.
Feel the chocolate
This is very important in identifying the quality. The smoother the texture, the better the ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ experience.
Pick up new skills at these city clubs
1. Tea: Sign up on www.tajteatrail.com to learn the art of making a perfect cup of tea, best accompaniments and even test your TQ (Tea Quotient).
2. Coffee: City-based Sahil Jatana regularly hosts workshops to teach coffee lovers more about their cuppa — the different
types, brewing and buying tips. Call him on 98206 44926 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Wine: The Art Loft, Bandra periodically hosts workshops for budding wine connoisseurs to evaluate the appearance, aroma and aftertaste of different wines. Write to email@example.com for more details.
4. Whiskey: Learn about the vast varieties of scotch, single malts – their taste, character, ideal food pairing and more at periodic workshops held by All Things Nice. Call them at 98207 04500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Water: Los Angeles-based Fine Water specialist, Dr Michael Mascha recently visited the city to speak about differences in water bottled by various brands. Read more on www.finewaters.com or write to him at email@example.com.