When you go chocolate tasting in Napa Valley, you have a lot of options beyond “would you like milk chocolate or dark chocolate?”
Chocolatiers from all over the world have created a plethora delicious, mouth watering treats just begging to be enjoyed!
So the big question becomes, where to go chocolate tasting in Napa Valley? We have six unique artisan chocolate shops sure to satisfy any individual, cravings and preferences.
First, take a moment to learn about chocolate, where it comes from, how to taste it and how it is made.
Learn About Chocolate
There are 8 major types of chocolate; milk, dark, white, cocoa, raw, compound, modeling and ruby. Each has a vastly different flavor and each type of chocolate can taste drastically different from the beans, preparation methods and other ingredients used.
Another flavor changer is if the chocolate uses cacao or cocoa and what what percentage. To clarify what the difference is, cacao is made by pressing un-roasted cacao beans. Cocoa is cacao that has been roasted at high temps.
Where Chocolate Comes From
Chocolate starts out from the bean of the cacao tree which was found in the Amazon basin over 5,000 years ago. Cacao trees are now grown around the world. The trees prefer tropical environments. The majority of cacao beans are imported into the USA from Africa, Indonesia and South America.
How to Taste Chocolate
How to taste chocolate… put it in your mouth and eat it! Seriously, it is as easy as that. There are no right or wrong ways to enjoy chocolate. However, there are a few easy ways to taste it that will amplify the flavors.
First, make sure you have a variety of chocolate on hand. The ideal amount of different types will be up to you. The purpose of having multiple pieces of chocolate is to start identifying the different subtle flavors within each piece. The more you identify, the easier it will become.
To cleanse your palate before you start and in between pieces. To do this, sip some room-temperature water. However, we do recommend substituting the water for a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
Before you eat the chocolate, put the it up to your nose and smell it. Take a deep slow inhale and try to identify and aromas that you notice.
Now take a bite. Go slow for maximum flavor detection. Pause to note the flavors you taste. After, take a breath in and notice any new flavors that are now present. One thing to pay attention to is how the flavor changes as it changes from a hard texture to a melted chocolate.
After you swallow, wait a few moments before cleansing your palate and starting over.
Some common flavors you can identify when tasting chocolate: banana, bright juicy red fruit, cherry, coconut, creamy fruit, dark cherry, grapefruit, lemon, lychee, mango, mellow cherry, pineapple, plum, raspberry, lemon, strawberry, apricot, fig, prune, raisin, currant, date, almond, cashew, hazelnut, marzipan, peanut, walnut, brown sugar, caramel, butterscotch, molasses, praline, toffee, orange, rose, allspice, anise, black pepper, chicory, cinnamon, mulling spices, nutmeg, vanilla and more.
How Chocolate is Made
Making chocolate from beans is not a simple task. It is certainly an all day affair with multiple steps to follow the chocolate to come out just right. It also requires a certain amount of know-how and industrial equipment that isn’t found in every kitchen.
This is a very abridged version on how to make chocolate. First, it requires the purchase of high-quality beans, knowing what to look for and how to get them ready to roast. After, when the beans are ready to roast, there is a variety of different methods and temperatures that can be used cocoa beans. After you find your settings and the beans have been roasted, you crack the shell off the roasted bean to extract the nibs. After that is the refining process where you turn the nibs into chocolate by hand or with a wet grinder. Depending on the type of chocolate you make you would then temper the chocolate with heat using a double boiler and then get it ready for molding. After pouring into the molds, it needs to cool and then you can taste it.
Where to Taste Chocolate in Napa Valley
You can buy chocolate just about anywhere in Napa Valley. It also pairs well with wine so lots of wineries offer chocolate and wine pairings. With over 400 wineries, there are too many to mention here! Instead, we recommend going chocolate tasting in Napa Valley at any of the following 6 chocolate shops:
- Anette’s Chocolate
- Vintage Sweet Shoppe
- Wine Country Chocolates
- La Forêt
- Woodhouse Chocolate
- Kollar Chocolates
We hope you learned something or maybe we even inspired you to go out and try a chocolate tasting. If so, let us know! #myvacationnanny