Do you remember your very first bite of chocolate when you were a child? Was it not the yummiest thing to ever dance upon your tongue? And did it not leave you yearning for more?
If you’re craving chocolate, the perfect way to satisfy your cravings is a chocolate tasting at the Royal Chocolate in Virginia Beach. My fiancé, Josh, and I recently joined a small group at the shop’s Town Center location to experience a variety of chocolates from around the world.
Brenda Tusing, co-owner of the Royal Chocolate—now in its third year—began the tasting with some neat facts about chocolate. The word chocolate, for example, is derived from cocoa and is known as the “food of the gods.” The Aztecs believed the god Quetzalcoatl traveled from paradise with a cacao tree and presented it as a gift. According to legend, Quetzalcoatl taught the Aztecs how to roast and grind the cacao seeds and create a paste that could be mixed with water. The Aztecs added spices to the mixture and called it chocolatl, or bitter-water. They believed drinking this beverage brought universal wisdom and knowledge.
While eating chocolate may not make us smarter, it can make us healthier. The magic number, according to some experts, is 70. Take a look at your chocolate label. If it says “70% cocoa,” you are at the brink of experiencing the health benefits of chocolate. For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) found a substance in cocoa that helps the body process nitric oxide, a compound that’s critical to healthy blood flow. Another study showed that flavonols, which are present in chocolate, prevent fat-like substances from entering our blood stream and causing clots. That means, theoretically, drinking flavonol-rich cocoa is like having a low dose of aspirin. Another health advantage comes from tryptophan, also found in chocolate, which is an essential amino acid that lessens anxiety by producing serotonin, nature’s feel-good chemical. That’s why we binge on this stuff when we are sad.
After hearing Brenda’s introduction, Josh and I were ready to experience some of those feel-good effects of chocolate. We began with the Santander 75% from Colombia, which gave me a Starbucks Komomdo Dragon aftertaste with just enough kick to wake up my taste buds. The next chocolate, the Michel Cluizel 72% from France, was a lighter experience with a nice creamy finish. It reminded me of the taste of ZD Chardonnay with its creamy finish as though it too had been aged in a French oak barrel. As we slid down the cocoa scale, we dove into the milks, such as the Divine from Germany, a fair-trade organic, eco-friendly product.
We also sampled white chocolate, which we learned is not really chocolate, as it contains no cocoa. The Green and Black’s White Organic reminded Josh of crème brulée. Things got interesting when we bravely sampled some unique chocolate flavors such as the Vosges Black Pearl Bar with wasabi and ginger and the Chuao Spicy Maya from Venezuela, which Josh and I both agreed had “great kick in the back.” When we bit down on the Butler’s Mixed Berry from Ireland, we felt a little Irish twang on our lips. With its added crunch, it reminded me of Fruity Pebbles.
As we gobbled up chocolate, I recalled it was once a valuable commodity and that consuming it was once equivalent to eating money. Did you know back in the day you could barter one cocoa bean for a tomato? These days you’re just as likely to find chocolate in the hands of today’s celebrity chefs as tomatoes. Dishes like chili, Mexican bean dip, chicken mole, and BBQ sauce can be enhanced with the addition of cocoa. Thankfully today’s experimental minds in the culinary industry have opened up new possibilities for chocolate lovers.
But for many, chocolate is best in its simplest form, pure and chocolatey. Remember with good chocolate, you always hear a snap when you bite into it, and it should melt nicely in your mouth.
For more information about the next chocolate tasting at the Royal Chocolate, call
757-557-6925 or visit theroyalchocolate.com.
Kim Cuachon is a chocolate lover from Toronto.