If you are tasting lots of different chocolates, some sparkling water or plain bread is a good way to cleanse your palate. Not all wines pair with all chocolates, so don’t let that cloud your taste buds either.
Eat chocolate at room temperature, don't refrigerate it! Cold chocolate makes it harder to detect flavor nuances. Ideally, you shouldn’t store your chocolate in the fridge, but in a cool, dry place around 65F.
Get a decent piece of the bar and break it off. Did it have a nice crisp sound? Good dark chocolate has a clean snapping sound. A lack of a good snap could indicate bad tempering or that the chocolate is too warm.
Give the chocolate a whiff to inhale its aroma. Does it smell fruity or sweet? Can you detect any vanilla, spice or smokiness? Smelling chocolate (or any food) before you put it in your mouth primes your taste buds. Incoming! Pay attention if there is a lack of aroma, as it can indicate staleness and can completely affect taste.
Put the piece of chocolate in your mouth. But don’t chew it and gulp it down! Let the chocolate melt on your tongue. Your mouth is the perfect temperature for chocolate to melt slowly. Let the flavors unfold, and chew a few times to release more flavors if necessary. Use a tasting wheel to help you develop your tasting notes vocabulary.
Texture is the first thing you’ll notice when the chocolate comes in contact with your mouth. Chew it slowly. Is it dry and chalky, or smooth and creamy? Does it coat your entire mouth? Waxy or a granular grainy texture is bad, the chocolate should be smooth (unless it is Mexican style chocolate).
Chocolate flavor can vary dramatically depending on the origin, the cacao content and what the maker chose to do with the beans. You may notice bright fruit and acidity, or jammy berries. Some chocolates have a strong nutty, earthy, or smoky tobacco flavor. And as you taste perhaps you will identify notes of caramel, vanilla and various spices. As the flavors unfold, notice what notes come into your mouth and how they change. Bitterness will be the last component.
The finish is all about how the chocolate lingers in your mouth. Does it have a long finish, or do the flavors disappear quickly? Savoring chocolate in this way will help you gain a deeper appreciation for chocolate but remember that what is good chocolate is ultimately subjective and up to you to decide!