Part One: the CODEX Number
There are as many ways to taste as there are people. Each person brings their own memories and preferences to the table when they taste so there really is no one way. If anything tasting, either alone or with friends and family, is about discovering yourself as much as it is about discovering chocolate.
Our system is our own but we’ve found that it’s a pretty good way to catalogue bars for our own reference. Beneath is a breakdown of how we came up with the CODEX numbers and how we use them.
the CODEX Number
The CODEX number represents five categories with each category representing one aspect when we taste chocolate: the color of chocolate, the texture of the surface, the way chocolate breaks when you bend it, how the chocolate smells and the feeling it gives you as it melts in your mouth.
Each category gets a number from 0–9 that corresponds to a value on the charts below. A higher number doesn’t mean that the bar is “better” than another bar. It just means that it’s different.
Every review will have the descriptions that relate to each number right underneath so don’t worry about memorizing anything!
The color of chocolate is the first thing you see when you open a bar and chocolate can come in colors beyond just white, milk and dark. There are all kinds of shades and hues depending on not just the ingredients but also the bean.
We have ten shades (though it could have been one hundred) that we pick from to give an overall impression of how dark the bar is.
How does the bar feel to the tips of our fingers? Is there any texture due to the molding or to any inclusions? Find the smoothest area and feel the surface. You’ll notice that chocolate can really range in texture.
0. Rough – like concrete. 1. Gritty – like heavy sandpaper. 2. Sandy – has a fine sand texture. 3. Suede – like a suede jacket, slightly grabby and textured. 4. Velvet – similar to suede but a bit more delicate. 5. Smooth – the texture is minimal. 6. Glossy – the surface feels shiny and slick. 7. Sticky – the surface feels smooth but tacky. 8. Gummy – it feels smooth but it’s sticky too. 9. Greasy – the chocolate feels fatty.
Snap refers to the way that chocolate breaks when you bend it. It isn’t just how the chocolate breaks but also the sound it makes when you do it. Snap can change a lot depending on what kind of chocolate it is, the temper, ingredients and thickness.
0. Soft – the chocolate seems to tear before it breaks 1. Bendy – the chocolate just folds under the pressure 2. Clay – a very light and soft snap 3. Crumbly – the chocolate breaks apart a bit on snap 4. Woody – the chocolate snaps but has some resistance 5. Crisp – a clean snap with a nice sound 6. Glassy – the chocolate fractures when its broken 7. Brittle – the chocolate breaks with little effort 8. Hard – it gives some real resistance 9. Stone – time to get a knife!
Tasting actually begins here. We could easily do a scent wheel with as many spokes as a flavor wheel. Your taste and your smell are not only linked but they don’t stay still either! We’ve tried to come up with rough categories to help us remember our noses first impression.
0. Milky – dairy smells like butter, milk, yogurt or cheese. 1. Roasted – nutty smells, smoky smells 2. Spicy – any kind of spice from sweet to savory 3. Earthy – damp, dusty, raw and dirty 4. Sour – citrus and tannic smells 5. Fruity – fresh, dried and preserved fruits 6. Herbacious – green plant smells and herbs 7. Sweet – sugary and sweet aromas 8. Floral – all kinds of florals from musky to fresh 9. Boozy – smells of spirits or cocktails.
Melt is all about mouthfeel. Not all chocolates melt the same way and the way that it does can really alter the way flavors appear. Some sources will tell you that you aren’t supposed to chew chocolate. You can eat chocolate anyway you please.
We recommend doing both: chewing and not chewing. Some bars become very different creatures when switching from one to the other!
0. Dry – the chocolate feels like it rejects moisture, doesn’t melt quickly 1. Gravel – the chocolate breaks apart or doesn’t melt evenly 2. Granular – the texture feels sandy or particulate in the mouth 3. Waxy – the chocolate is has a slick or coated mouth feel 4. Chalky – powdery feeling, not dense 5. Fine – very fine particles, not entirely smooth 6. Creamy – rich feeling, slow but even melt 7. Smooth – melts quickly and evenly 8. Fatty – a buttery texture that leaves your mouth feeling a little fatty 9. Oily – very quick melt, thin texture.
That’s our system for first impressions. And you know those are the best. A shorthand system for cataloguing chocolates is great way to recall and share new chocolate discoveries. It can tell you at a glance if you think you’d enjoy it, even if you disagree with the overall review.
Speaking of: numbers are fine and all but the flavor and the written review/overall score go further in depth and give CODEX some context.