Last week the lovely people at Splendid Communications invited me to go gallivanting with Galler at a chocolate tasting at Harrod’s. A group of keen foodie bloggers and Splendid representatives met at the concession for Galler, the luxury Belgian chocolatier founded in 1976 by Jean Galler (above) and the first chocolate company ever to be bestowed with the Belgian Royal Warrant.
Helen Heslop, Concession Manager, swiftly noted my interest in their Advent Calendar, explaining that the treats hidden behind each door were the Galler version of langues de chat, literally cat’s tongue, the classic French biscuit in a tongue shape. These langues de chat are not biscuits, however; they are confectionary shaped as cats poking out their tongues and they come in three types of chocolate – milk, dark or white. The advent calendar I was ogling, adorned in cute cat cartoons by bande dessinées illustrator, Philippe Geluck, contains milk chocolate langues de chat with a very special large praline-filled chocolate to be nibbled on the 24th.
Mouths watering, Rafaella Baruzzo of Galler UK joined Helen to talk about the history of chocolate making before teaching us how to fully appreciate the different flavour notes of chocolate through a blind tasting of their wares. Dark tablets chopped into squares were handed around as we were instructed to savour the aroma and take note of how the chocolate snapped or crunched as we bit into it, pressing the chocolate against the upper palate with our tongues so that it melted, the flavour dispersing through the mouth. To fully taste chocolate, we should use all five senses.
(Rafaella in action)
Each of the group had been given a list of what we should look out for when tasting each piece. How did the chocolate LOOK? Was it dark, matte, glossy? How did the chocolate SMELL? Did it crunch or snap when you bit into it? Was the texture smooth or crunchy? What were the flavours present?
The list of possible flavours reminded me of wine tastings where connoisseurs wax lyrical about apricot and honey notes. Our list was separated into groups featuring many different fruits and woodland tastes, from berries to pineapple and mushrooms to coffee. Then there was the group featuring cardboard and mud. I’m happy to say I didn’t have to refer to that one! It must be for the seriously gifted palates.
For each chocolate, we judged it from 1 to 10 according to different sense categories, plotting the results on a star chart, so that by the time we linked up the points, we’d created a web of our taste pattern. (These are currently being scanned for us so I may be able to post the image later, to help you understand what I’m trying to describe.) When we compared our webs at the end, it proved that every person’s taste is completely individual to them. One person’s sweet is another person’s sour. We were encouraged to always choose whichever chocolate variety is right for our palate.
Having moved our way through a number of tablets of chocolate (not too calorific; only one small piece each!) and having guessed the cacao content of each, we started nibbling on ganaches from the Elementaires range. Each circle of chocolate is emblazoned with a tiny triple stripe and boasts a deliciously melting centre. The first we tried (from the Marines selection) was flavoured with sel de guerande, a type of revered French sea salt, but only lightly so. We weren’t told what the flavour was until after we’d consumed the chocolate, so our tastebuds were going mad trying to guess the secret ingredient. The next in the Elementaires selection was floral. Was it rose? or hibiscus? The flavour was familiar and Chris from Splendid already knew what it was, encouraging me to try harder. When we were told, I kicked myself. It was violet. Of course! It had tasted of grandmothers’ dressing tables, in a very good, nostalgic way.
The last part of the tasting involved long pencils of ganache with little bottles of additional flavour into which you could dip them. Inspired by Japanese calligraphy, this range is called Kaori, from a Japanese word meaning ‘perfume, scent and fragrance’. The pencils came in 6 flavours (saffron, cardamom, yuzu, ginger, vanilla & coconut, strawberry & balsamic) and the dips were threefold (kalamansi, matcha green tea and poppy seeds, orange and cocoa nibs), so that the possible combinations of taste adds up to a staggering 54. I enjoyed saffron with kalamansi and green tea and the ginger with orange and cocoa nibs, but that was just scratching the surface of possibility. Meanwhile, the Food Hall had emptied and we enjoyed the rare experience of being in Harrods when it isn’t heaving with shoppers.
At the end of the evening, Galler gave each of us a little goodie bag with more Elementaires to try at home, and we trotted off in the rain to a nearby Knightsbridge pub to talk about chocolate, blogging, cooking and gaming, and many other seemingly unrelated subjects.
More importantly, if you like the sound of Galler, you can benefit from a 10% discount at their on-line store if you use this code: YQZ-JMW-N7Y. UK delivery takes 2-3 days with international to be confirmed on placement of order. If you want to benefit from this discount, then you have to order from this particular UK Galler site: http://www.gallerchocolates.co.uk/
For super-keen chocaholics I recommend you to visit the Galler UK Facebook page, where you can sign up for free samples, future events and competitions:
For my Belgian readers, here’s the original site.
For the US contingent, here’s your version.
**Also worth noting are Galler’s lactose-free and diabetic-friendly chocolate options.