Local expert shares the art of enjoying chocolate

By Cynthia England

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Similar to a fine wine, quality chocolate is meant to be appreciated and savored according to Laurie Rose, of Olde Naples Chocolate.

“Much like a wine connoisseur, chocolate lovers consider appearance, smell and taste,” she says. “True chocolate aficionados let the chocolate melt on their tongue and enjoy the various degrees of intensity and sensual feelings while it liquefies.”

Rose presented “How to Taste Chocolate,” June 5, at the Headquarters Branch library, covering a variety of little known secrets including the history, health benefits and correct way to enjoy chocolate – as if there could be a wrong way?

According to Rose, quality chocolate should feel firm and have a “clean melt,” with nothing waxy, or sandy to stick to the roof of the mouth. She says high quality chocolate will melt away like butter.

“Eat the piece slowly and try to distinguish the different flavors of the chocolate,” she says, adding chocolate has over 500 flavor components, more than twice the amount found in a strawberry or vanilla candy.

To make the most of your chocolate, Rose suggests breaking off a bit with your teeth and letting it sit between your tongue and the roof of your mouth.

“Move it around and observe the effects,” she says. “The chocolate should begin to melt immediately with an even texture, as Chocolate melts at human body temperature.”

She says the feeling of the chocolate in your mouth should be creamy, velvety, smooth and soft.

“Pay attention to the flavors, both subtle and strong. The best chocolates will be well balanced, not too sweet and not too bitter.”

Rose says any additives to the chocolate, such as fruits, nuts, spices and liquors, should not overpower the chocolate.

“Chocolate should always be the main flavor,” she says. “The flavor should be full and mellow with no artificial, burned, harsh, or flat overtones. ‘Aftertaste’ is the last quality to watch for when tasting chocolate. A good Chocolate will not disappear immediately, but will leave subtle and pleasant sensations in the mouth.”

Rose said humans’ love affair with chocolate dates back to the Aztecs, who referred to the ingredient as “Xocalatl.” The natives ground and mixed cacao beans into a variety of beverages, both sweet and bitter, which were reserved for only the highest noblemen and clerics.

She said Brazil is the largest producer of chocolate, as cacao trees grow within 20 degrees of the equator. Switzerland consumes the most chocolate per capita and London had the first chocolate house in the 1600s.

According to Rose, chocolate is a part of every day life in Europe.

“Every town has a chocolate shop on every little corner compared to the United States but it’s beginning to catch on here,” she said.

On the health side, Rose said dark chocolate has been lauded for reducing the risk of heart disease and preventing depression.

To the delight of the audience, the presentation included little packets of samples for the participants to savor.

After tasting the samples, Joanne Daun admitted she eats chocolate almost every day.

“But I eat the more bitter chocolate,” she said.

Nell Brown showed great restraint, saving her samples.

“They’re for my daughter who’s the chocoholic,” she explained

Rose also pointed out in her talk that there is a sugar-free chocolate for diabetics and organic chocolate made from cacao beans grown without pesticides. She said the Naples store does not sell the organic chocolate.

According to Rose, all chocolate items sold at Olde Naples Chocolate are made on the premises and the store also creates party platters and individual boxes.

When it comes to chocolate, “You name it, we do it,” she said.

Rose said the best way to store chocolate is in a cool dry place. She said chocolate starts getting soft at 75 degrees and will melt at 98 degrees. If stored properly, chocolate can last at least one year, according to Rose.

An audience member asked Rose how she stayed so thin, considering she works with chocolate every day.

“I only eat dark chocolate… and I only eat little bites,” she replied. “And again, it’s self control.”

Photo by DONN BROWN / Collier Citizen Mary Bullard, left, expresses her interest in chocolate to Laurie Rose, right, owner of Olde Naples Chocolate and friends, Jayne Coyne, and Phyllis Jacobson look on. Rose conducted a seminar on "How to taste Chocolate" at the Headquarters Branch Library, June 5.

© 2007 Naples Daily News and NDN Productions. Published in Naples, Florida, USA by the E.W. Scripps Co.