Chocolate tasting is an art – learn to discover 700 flavors

Chocolate tasting is an art – learn to discover 700 flavors

Chocolate lovers, indulge when you’re on a short stay in Amsterdam. You are on somewhat holy ground in this town, because the port of Amsterdam is one of the busiest cocoa ports in the world. 

If you happen to visit Amsterdam during the weekend of March 29th and 30th, make your way to the Scheepvaartmuseum (the National Maritime Museum) near the Central Station, where the Chocoa Festival takes place. It’s a festival where you will learn to taste chocolate with the seriousness of a wine taster. Instructors are on hand to teach you how to ‘slow’ taste various chocolates and the intricate flavours (as many as 700!) contained within. Also look out for workshops organised by chocolate makers and other experts, informing visitors of the origins of the cocoa trade, and the various production methods that have been used over the centuries. 

Cocoa once contributed a heap of glamour to the Dutch nation. In the 18th century, Amsterdam merchants controlled the entire world trade in cocoa beans. These beans financed a lot of real estate development in Amsterdam and helped turn it into the vibrant city it is today. Dutch initiatives also established the basis of modern cocoa processing, which involved the invention of the cocoa press to remove the fat from cocoa mass. This technique has been further sophisticated and is still applied in the Amsterdam port to derive high quality cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa powder.  

Chocolate connoisseurs will also have heard about the so-called development of the Dutch process of alkalisation, which was effected by C.J. van Houten. Interestingly, the alkaloid compounds Mr van Houten identified in cocoa beans are exactly the ingredients that make chocolate addictive. Chocolate lovers will have known this for donkey's years, no doubt, but it has been scientifically proven only recently. The same alkaloid compounds found in alcohol are also present in chocolate, Spanish researchers have pointed out. Apparently, it concerns a group of neuroactive alkaloids, known as tetrahydro beta carbolines. Just so you know.

Tomas Herraiz, the researcher in charge of the study by the Spanish Council for Scientific Research in Madrid, helpfully suggests that this could also explain why many recovering alcoholics use chocolate to curb their craving for alcohol, especially in early sobriety.   

The addictiveness of the chemicals will, I daresay, be weaker in chocolate than in alcoholic beverages. Women seem to be instinctively more aware of this than men. The Diabetes Association points out that more women than men are subject to incidental chocolate cravings. Forty percent of women have chocolate cravings from time to time, versus only 15 percent of the male population.  

By contrast, other research indicates that men are way more likely to become alcoholics than women. In Britain, for instance, one third of men and one sixth of women drink alcohol at a level that is dangerous to their health. 

Living the good life might be something that takes place with a bar, not inside a bar…

To find the Scheepvaartmuseum, ask any local in the vicinity of the Centraal Station, it’s only a stone’s throw away from there and also not far off many apartments rented out by Amsterdam Apartments