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Archive for December, 2011

Olivia Chocolate, photo credit: The Globe & Mail

Speech 3: Get to the Point

Quetzalcoatl ‘s Gift

Quetzalcoatl was an Aztec god and, according to lore, he gave humanity a wonderous gift. What was this gift? … Theobroma cacao, “food of the gods”, or, as we best know and love it – chocolate. This gift has been nourishing us for almost 4,000 years.

Mr. Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and welcomed guests, tonight I invite you to participate in a journey of the senses. We’ll explore the five steps to truly tasting chocolate. We’ll prepare for this encounter by travelling to its source and, afterwards, we’ll reflect on the experience.

Now, let’s prepare for the encounter. It starts with a tree, a pod, and a bean … The theobroma cacao tree bears about 25 pods per year, and each pod contains 20 to 40 beans. They’re sheltered in its pulp. The tree only grows at a latitude of 20 degrees north and south of the Equator. … My first encounter with it was in the lush tropics near Baracoa Cuba. It’s native to parts of South America and Central America; although, 70% of the world’s supply is grown in Africa. Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario are the three main varieties. Criollo, the original, is a rare flavour bean. Forastero, the most common, is a bulk bean. Trinitario, a hybrid of the other two, is also a flavour bean.

To appreciate Quetzalcoatl’s gift we need to be attentive to its qualities. Chocolate, like wine, has flavour notes. … Now, let’s explore the five steps of chocolate tasting.

Step 1. Look at the chocolate. We often eat with our eyes. Is the surface shiny? What colour is the chocolate? Is it uniform? Are the edges clean? Is the moulding clear?

Step 2. Smell it. Release the aroma by rubbing the chocolate with your finger, then, bring it up to your nose, cup your hands and take a slow breath. Does it smell rich, intense, earthy or sweet? Do you detect other notes – perhaps fruity, floral or spicy?

Step 3. Snap it. A clue to its quality is in the snap. What do you hear? Is the sound sharp and crisp? Does the break leave a clean edge?

Step 4. Feel it in your mouth. Place it against the roof of your mouth and pass your tongue over the bottom. Notice how it melts and how it feels. Is it rich and luscious? Is the texture smooth and velvety?

Step 5. Taste it. Flavour starts to fill your mouth as soon as the chocolate begins to melt. Does the flavour come quickly or does it release slowly? Does it change as it melts? Pay attention to the finish. What’s the lingering flavour? How long does it stay with you?

Ah, chocolate. Now that our encounter has ended we may want to ask ourselves, “Was the indulgence worthwhile?” … Chocolate has been a symbol of power, wealth, love, seduction and comfort. We associate it with memories, feelings and even health. Mesoamerican people believed it had medicinal value. Cacao’s antioxidant flavonoids have been linked to a number of potential health benefits. … Sipping hot chocolate reminds me of Spanish classes, cooking lessons, wonder, and the many other pleasing experiences and sensations I embraced during a stay in Mexico.

Chocolate truly is the food of the gods. To sum up, we travelled to chocolate’s source – the tree, pod and three beans; we then explored the five steps to tasting it – look, smell, snap, mouthfeel and taste; and, afterwards we reflected onits associations with memories, feelings, and health. Chocolate – a wonderous gift indeed!

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