When I was in the Bay Area in late February to speak at Copia during their chocolate festival, I spent some time with TCHO (the name is properly spelled in all caps) founder Timothy Childs discussing a number of different issues. One of them was their approach to describing flavors in chocolate.
According to Timothy, TCHO plans to not market their chocolates using percentages (or maybe even origins) because they feel that the percentage conveys no meaningful information about either the taste or the quality of the chocolate (I totally agree with them on this point). They are also looking to simplify how flavors are conveyed by concentrating on a relatively small number of tastes and focusing on the dominant note. Their first bar, made from Ghanain beans is labeled simply "chocolatey." In part, this recognizes that the vast majority of chocolate lovers are not super-tasters, so lengthy lists of flavors nuances are neither useful nor helpful.
What I find frustrating about most flavor descriptions is that they tend to ignore the temporal dimension - how the chocolate changes in taste in the mouth over time - and other taste attributes such as intensity. In thinking about this, it occurred to me to look at art forms that have temporal aspects - dance, film, music - to see if there was anything in their vocabulary that might make sense.I found one in music, or more accurately, synthesizers and the concept of Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release (ADSR). This was a pretty cool analogy, I thought. How does the flavor "attack" in the mouth? Does it start off strong and weaken or does it start off quietly and pop with a bang when it warms up? Once the flavor reaches its peak, does it drop off quickly or slowly? How long does the flavor last and how does it change (the short aftertaste)? Finally, how does the flavor clear out of the mouth (the release, or long aftertaste).
I am still looking for a way to visually represent the concept of ADSR as well as another idea that reflects where the chocolate "sits" in the mouth - is it low and earthy and in the bottom of the mouth or light and airy and aromatic and in the nose?
I am really unhappy with the spider graphs that many chocolate manufacturers use because the shapes are meaningless. Any visual system has to be able to provide information that can be comprehended at a glance. It should be possible to tell the differences between two chocolates instantly and you just can't do that with a spider graph. In part this is because there is no standard and every manufacturer orients the axes in a different order and have different layouts for milk and dark chocolates.
Ultimately that's what it's all about - providing an instantly comprehensible visual representation of the flavor profile of a chocolate that also makes it possible to make meaningful comparisons at a glance.
clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
updated by @clay: 11/07/15 11:54:24AM