The goal is to get from 0 to 100 ― at least in the percent of cocoa. To make this transition from milk to dark chocolate easier to swallow, The Queen Bee bookstore in Ogden held a tasting on Sept. 23.
“Some people are the purists — they just like the straight beans. Other people like inclusion,” said two-year shop owner Robyn Stark, who said that she can introduce people to “at least one dark chocolate bar that they like.
“Everyone likes some kind of dark chocolate. You just have to find the right fit.”
With Utah having been named America’s Craft Chocolate Capital, the store showcased local brands, as well as those from Europe, New York and other places.
According to Stark, The Queen Bee is the store farthest west of the Mississippi River, besides Tony Caputo’s Market & Deli in Salt Lake City, to have this kind of selection before reaching California.
The event was planned in accordance with the Utah Humanities Book Festival with “Chocolat” as the main literature — a book by Joanne Harris and film-adaptation starring Juliette Binoche in which a French woman moves into a new town and opens a chocolaterie.
However, The Queen Bee and Art House Cinema 502 couldn’t coordinate the times, much to Stark’s displeasure.
“We (as a committee) were trying to brainstorm … events that could highlight each business,” Stark said. “Because I sell chocolate and books … they thought this is a way we could highlight me.”
Still, Stark said most of the shop’s Friday-night visitors heard about the occasion through other means. The store had more demand than it did in previous tastings, enough that some who planned to attend had to be turned away, as space was limited.
The event started with a short history, including the variation of cocoa beans, known otherwise as cacao beans, and how less-expensive sugar purchases invented today’s lighter, sweeter flavors.
The patrons then, sitting at bistro tables, followed a technique in which they smelled different brands, let the chocolate melt in their mouths and cleared their palates afterwards with a swig of water and bite of bread.
Stark and the new connoisseurs took notes on sensory reactions, keeping in mind how the amount of sugar, cacao percentage and other ingredients influenced taste.
Overall, there appeared to be delight with fruity chocolates, surprise at smoky aftertastes and apprehension at hearing some use of donkey milk.
“It’s a good night out with the girls or just a date night,” said Ashlee Hyden, 33, who went to the tasting in celebration of her roommate’s birthday. “I just love trying the new kinds, but this one was definitely fun to try different flavors (from) different countries.”
Another guest, Stefani Barksdale, 69, went to the tasting with her daughter, son-in-law and grandchild who signaled the brands she liked with high-raised thumbs. “It’s quite instructional, being able to taste it made the difference,” she said. “I made candy before, and I’ve gone to some shows. It takes time to develop a palate for some things, and it helps you realize why some things cost more ― it’s why they taste better.”