1) Pick a theme. We settled on milk chocolate truffles, but you could also try comparing chocolate from different countries of origin, chocolate bars within the same cocoa percentage range, exotic spice-spiked chocolate candies or maybe a spectrum of chocolates made by a single maker. Choose between five and 10 examples--much more and you run the risk of fatiguing your palate. (Your tastebuds’ equivalent of going cross-eyed.)
2) Prepare. Lay out your selections according to intensity, from mildest (milk) to wildest (dark). Allow them to come to room temperature before tasting. Chocolate’s flavors expand in the mouth long after the actual piece has melted away—when you’re done with a particular example, you’ll need to clear your palate with water and lightly salted pretzels. (You could go with plain crackers, but pretzels accomplish the same thing and pair better with chocolate. Trader Joe's Pretzel Slims, a kind of pretzel-cracker hybrid, worked particularly well for us.)
3) Party. Share your ideas on aromas, textures, flavors and associations as you experience them. Take down notes. Go with your gut. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, sipping coffee and espresso will bring out different flavors in the chocolate, as will wine. (The Internet is teeming with suggestions, or a knowledgeable local wine seller will happily point you in the direction of chocolate-friendly wines.) Individual plates for unfinished chocolate pieces will come in handy. As tempting as it is to devour everything in sight, you’ll have a better time if you ...
4) Pace yourself. Believe us.