Chocolate isn't just a taste sensation, it's an experience that enlivens all the senses.

Consider touch: How quickly does the chocolate melt in your hand or mouth? The quicker the better, as this indicates a greater amount of cocoa butter.

Sound also enters the equation. The crystalline structure of cocoa butter gives the excellent chocolate a "snap" when broken.

Sight is an important sense when consuming the confection. The gloss or shine can be seen in a chocolate that is in true temper. When a bloom is seen as a whitish caste on the chocolate it can mean that the chocolate has been exposed to either heat or moisture. Heat bloom can mean that the chocolate has been rushed and not tempered properly or that it has been exposed to external heat and cooled down again. This should not affect the flavor of the chocolate but could mean that the product has not been stored in ideal conditions. Moisture can cause a "sugar bloom" which can destroy the texture of the chocolate making it look spotty.

Chocolate must also pass the smell test. The nose is the most highly tuned instrument for detecting the fine cocoa rich smells that erupt from quality chocolate. The deep, rich cocoa aroma will be most evident in chocolate that is warm but should also be available when cool.

Perhaps the most important sense when we analyze fine chocolate is taste. A small piece of chocolate should be placed on the tongue and allowed to melt on its own with no chewing. Professional chocolate tasters use vocabulary that is borrowed from wine tasters. "Notes" are characteristics are looked for and expressed in comparisons with flower blossoms citrus and red berry fruits, for example.

As with all foods everyone tastes different flavors and the flavors that each person enjoys are the ones that he or she will prefer.
Engaging all the senses can make each chocolate encounter something truly memorable.

Cheryl Sher is the owner of Sher-Bliss, a chocolate-oriented shop in Gahanna.