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I read with great interest on your blog about attempts to find new ways to describe the taste of chocolate that isn't dependent on other food terms. I'm especially curious about what you mean by using music terminology.

To make it easier for others here's what Clay said, "4. Develop new ways to talk about flavors in chocolate (that aren't dependent on other foods). Right now, most of the vocabulary of chocolate (and certainly virtually all of the taste vocabulary of chocolate) comes from wine. While this is not bad, I think there has to be some way to talk about flavors in chocolate in more general terms so that more people "get it" without thinking we chocophiles are being snobby. The new chocolate company Tcho, which is currently in "beta" on its first chocolate, has developed a "taste wheel" that lists what they think are the dominant flavor characteristics of one of their chocolates. I think that this is a step in a good direction. My own explorations in this area include trying to adapt terms from music to chocolate and I plan to continue this work for myself and on behalf of my consulting clients in 2008. What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea? Share your thoughts in a comment."

Would you elaborate on this concept a little more? Also can you give more details about what Tcho is doing in this area? I couldn't find anything about it on their website.

Tags: descriptors, music, vocabulary

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I've found the taste wheels to be useful, but they do have limitations. To me, the biggest benefit is the breakdown into the broad family/category and then the specific taste descriptions. If I can start with the category that helps me narrow down what the specific taste might be. One limitation of these wheels, though, is that the categories are somewhat arbitrarily named and don't match from wheel to wheel. I also find it hard to have to read around a circle. Also, some wheels have descriptors that others lack. It was easier for me to compile these from several wheels into one list. Looking at a list of words grouped by categories is easier for me to use. I've attached my list. I've also attached a file with a few tasting wheels, if those work well for you.
hi Clay, Olorin
is this interesting idea of new ways to talk on chocolate still running?
any outcomes to share / further collaborate on ?


This discussion is always open. I haven't spent much more time writing about it because I still haven't figured out how to visualize things properly and (good, clear) pictures are helpful when trying to explain abstract concepts.

The music analogy I was referring to is ADSR - Attack Decay Sustain Release - as I mention in an earlier reply. Some more detail:

Attack: How quickly does the chocolate flavor develop?
Decay: How quickly does it fall off?
Sustain: Once the flavor decays, what happens?
Release: How does the long aftertaste develop?

If you try to graph this there the horizontal axis it time, you end up with a curve that displays the way the flavor changes over time in the mouth. Because some chocolates are aromatic and bright and others are earthy, I would start the curve on different places on the vertical axis to try to represent that aspect.

This is inexact which is why I am still working on it.
What about musical staff notation?

A "measure" is a period of time. Each line on the staff could represent different "notes" of flavor. Intensity for each flavor could be color coded. The notes could be standardized ( a la TCHO) or the chocolate maker would give their "tasting notes" as they perceive them. Depending on the complexity of the chocolate, there could be one measure, or there could be a symphony. Each time a "flavor note" emerges, the note on the staff would appear with the corresponding color for the intensity of that flavor.

The best chocolates would probably have a score, where each instrument has it's own staff for the complex flavor notes.

Unfortunately if most of the world does not know how to listen a symphony, they probably couldn't read the sheet music.

I'm reminded of a line out the movie "White man can't jump". I'm not going to quote it exactly but it was something to the effect of : you can listen to Jimi (i.e. Hendrix), but you can't HEAR Jimi.

I'd thought about extending the metaphor to include a literal music staff but everything I tried to do was more difficult to use than the spider graphs. I am still open to the idea but what is important is that whatever the visual form is:

1) It's easy to grasp - and quickly
2) It's easy to compare - meaningfully - with other chocolate graphs

It's a fun challenge.

:: Clay
Maybe different linear graphs: one for the initial taste, one for the middle section and another for the aftertaste. The shape of the graph line indicates strength and length and the colour of the line - or a written note - tells you what the flavours are. Or maybe coloured bar graph blocks underneath for each flavour.
Hmmm, this does get tricky when you get past the first thoughts doesn't it!
Yes, it does. I have some new drawing software and I will see if I can do something with that to illustrate the idea.


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