I love my jobs. I’m a holistic health coach, hydrocolonic therapist and a chocolate connoisseur who creates magical, mindful tastings for the choco-curious. These endeavors may seem like strange bedfellows but in fact, they are kissing cousins...logically connected healing arts that enhance, energize and harmonize humans.
Here in the United States we have a strong work ethic, and that’s a good thing, but I think we’ve lost sight of the fact that simple pleasure is essential to health, creativity and happiness. We’re all familiar with the “no pain, no gain” philosophy to which many people subscribe and proudly wear as a badge of honor, but what if it engenders more harm than good? What if, instead, we focused on slowing down, instead of speeding up? What if we focused on connecting people to a state of unbridled delight? Would they became healthier and kinder to themselves and to each other? Could the world eventually become a brighter place? I think so, and that’s why I love what I do. Through my work, people come alive and reconnect to their joy. Gradually, and over time, they become the best versions of themselves.
Health is a journey, and so is artisan craft chocolate. The path can be expansive and change course with unexpected twists and turns. It unfolds and evolves over time. Fine health and fine chocolate are both deeply satisfying and therefore worth acquiring. The pay-off is nothing short of euphoric.
I feel like the happiest and healthiest version of myself when I’m fully engaged in the present moment - neither dwelling on the past nor worrying about the future. Celebrating life with a daily mindful chocolate experience is one of my deliberate pleasure rituals that keeps me grounded in the here and now.
What’s especially fun and humbling about my work with chocolate is that my fellow tasters often tell me that they didn’t even realize they liked dark chocolate until they experienced it with me. They have a deeply buried love of dark (and dark milk) chocolate that they finally access with my guidance, and it visibly lights all of us up.
It’s February and therefore the perfect time to savor some beautiful chocolate, so here is my step-by-step guide for a mindful eating practice to elevate your next tasting experience. All you need is an environment that’s free from distractions for at least a few minutes, a willing spirit, a bar of fine chocolate and a lovely plate.
Step 1: Eye Candy
Choosing a bar of chocolate is the perfect time to judge a book by its cover. I won’t call you shallow if you develop a crush on a wrapper. If the bar beckons, don’t be shy. Go right ahead and claim it! Think of a particularly inviting bar of chocolate as a flawlessly wrapped present, selected just for you and intended to be opened slowly. Notice the sounds you hear as you release your precious bar from its paper and foil.
Study your bar. Pay attention to the color, the imprint on the bar, the quality of the finish and how heavy or light it feels in your hand. Look at it from all angles. The color may range in hue from almost-black to a crimson-infused mahogany, to a shade of lightly browned toast. The color is determined by the type of cacao beans that comprise the bar as well as the length and heat of the roast. If it’s a milk chocolate bar, the amount of milk powder added will also have an affect on the bar’s color. The finish should be even and bright. If you see dull gray or white spots on the surface of the chocolate it means that the fat and/or sugar has bloomed due to improper storage conditions and it will not be as pleasing. If you are lucky enough to be holding a bar of craft chocolate in your hand, it may have an exquisite imprint on its surface. You might even feel a bit regretful to bite into a work of art. Get over it.
Step 2: Give Me A Break
The snap is one of my favorite aspects of chocolate appreciation and makes for a gorgeous sonic experience, providing clues about how the chocolate will perform for you when you put it in your mouth. Don’t miss it! According to experts at the fabulous retail shop The Meadow, “the snap of good chocolate is a lovely sound, oscillating between the reassuring solid thump of a Mercedes Benz door and the tinny crackling of a sheet of ice on a frozen pond.” The snappy sound you hear is the result of your mind guiding your fingers to alter the homogenously entwined cocoa butter crystals and delicately ground cocoa solid particles through a simple break. Put the snapped bar on your plate and admire it for a moment.
Step 3: Stop and Smell the Chocolate
Some bars of chocolate have a truly magnificent aroma and you will be missing out on a vital aspect of the tasting if you don’t acknowledge its fragrance, just as you would with a fine wine. What words come to mind just from the chocolate’s smell? You may detect notes of fruit, smoke, spice, earth, fudge, flowers or vanilla. As you breathe deeply, keep in mind that about 80% of what we taste actually comes from our sense of smell, and while external fragrances create intense flavor expectations, it is the act of swallowing that causes a vibration of volatile aromatic odor molecules from inside your mouth to hit the back of your nose and create your unique tasting experience. What we often think of as our sense of taste is actually our sense of smell asserting itself within the mouth. This is known as “oral referral.”
Step 4: Eat Me
Chocolate lends itself to mindful eating because it is the only edible substance that melts at around 93 degrees, just below body temperature. So, open wide and place a piece of chocolate in your mouth. Take a bite or two or three and then allow the chocolate simply to melt on your tongue. An artisan chocolate (ideally one whose only two ingredients are cacao and sugar) will not give you a linear tasting experience. It takes a full 7-10 seconds for the chocolate to blossom, deepen and reveal its true nature to you. Don’t rush magic. The chocolate will have top notes, middle notes and finishing notes. Enjoy all the notes in the symphony! Ideally, you will find harmony in the composition and you’ll be ready for your second taste. Be playful and see if you can hang on to that first-bite delight as your journey with the chocolate continues. Different people may detect different notes in the chocolate. We all have a unique set of senses and way of perceiving external stimuli. That’s part of the fun. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to your chocolate impressions.
So, map in hand, your course is now laid out before you, Darling Explorer. Give yourself permission to engage in this simple pleasure. Experiment and play with the above steps to reveal your inherent but unrealized love for craft chocolate. And please note that if you require any chocolate counsel along your journey, this pioneer is always here to help you. Happy Valentine’s Day!