Judging Chocolate, Sign me Up! April 07 2017
Last Friday, I had an amazing opportunity to assist with judging the International Chocolate Awards. In the pouring rain, I made my way from the Upper West Side in New York to Hoboken, New Jersey. I thought that journey was long but when I sat down to judge I realized I hadn’t come as far as others. I found out about the judging from my friend Jessica of Bar Cacao. She specializes in Craft Chocolate and is ready to get involved with all types of chocolate. Jessica traveled from California to be here for the judging. At my table there was a man from Portland, Oregon and a woman from Germany. I guess people really will travel for chocolate.
I was a little intimidated by the thought of judging these prestigious awards but when I arrived at Ultramarinos in Hoboken, where the event was held, I was given a warm welcome. What I thought would be a super stringent judging process ended up a being a great opportunity to not only taste a lot of chocolate but also network with colleagues in the chocolate industry. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of chocolate to judge and that was taken very seriously; but I was surprised by the amount of discussion that came along with the judging. Here is a run-down of my experience.
After I was set up on the judging system, all online and confidential I believe, I had to awaken my palette. I was give 3 chocolates to taste and record their flavor profile. Later in the day one of these chocolates would return to see if my palette was still on par with where I started. Between each tasting I tried to drink a lot of fizzy water to cleanse my palette and people also eat very plain polenta to help keep their taste buds in tune. Next came the chocolate and lots of it. Every 10-15 minutes we were presented with a plate of 3-5 different chocolates. They all had a description of what was inside and I was informed to taste the stronger flavors (like chili) towards the end. Everything came out without packaging so you didn’t know who the producer was. The most memorable chocolates I tried were a dark chocolate ganache with soy sauce and Pedro Jiménez Sherry which was surprisingly successful. I also really enjoyed a dark chocolate ganache layered with a bumbleberry gelee. I can tell you coconut cream is popular right now along with Asian flavors (wasabi, soy sauce, pickled ginger).
After about 3 hours, it was time for me to return to the real world. I had a slice of pizza on my way back to the Path Train to balance out the sweetness from the chocolate. Most of the other judges were in it for the long haul, tasting up to 8 hours a day for 3-5 days in a row. You can read more about the International Chocolate Awards on their website.
We also have a collection of past winners in our marketplace including Palette de Bine Vietnam 72% Dark Chocolate, Rococo Chocolates White Chocolate Cardamom, Rococo Chocolates Sea Salt, Almond & Rosemary, Rococo Chocolates Basil & Persian Lime and Rococo Chocolates Sea Salt Milk Chocolate.