« Back to blog posts

Chocolate — Sweet Indulgence

Category: Way of Living
Date: March 9, 2021

Peter Moustakerski, an absolute chocolate guru, joined us for a wide-ranging discussion about chocolate, including its long history, production details, health benefits, ethical considerations, as well as where to find high-quality chocolate on our own. He also led us through a delicious chocolate tasting, offering best practices for fully immersing ourselves in the experience, so we can truly taste the complex flavors of the cacao bean itself.

Peter embodies the essential idea of Startover – he left behind his consulting career to pursue his chocolate passion full time, travelling to chocolate manufacturers and growers all over the globe, and eventually founding a business, his own chocolate shop, which enveloped people in the confection-making process.

Chocolate Tasting Recommendations

Peter assured us that tasting is more of an art than science, but he offered several recommendations to maximize the experience.

Chocolate should be eaten in order from least to most dark (lowest percentage of cacao to highest), so that you can truly taste the flavor profile of the cacao bean rather than what has been added to it. 

During a tasting, first put the chocolate on your tongue and let it start to melt. If you can, avoid chewing the chocolate. To prolong the experience, rub the chocolate on your palette and around your mouth to engage nerve endings and let it slowly dissolve. As it melts, think about what your brain is registering. You should (try to) eat the chocolate as slowly as possible, giving your brain the time to register its nuances and complex flavors.

A chocolate tasting should include all five of your senses.

1.  Smell – Professionals recommend that you smell the chocolate first, before tasting it, in order to saturate your senses.

2.  Sight – Well-made chocolate is shiny.

3.  Touch – If chocolate is tempered properly, the cacao butter will be smooth. It should not bend or be grainy.

4. Hearing – the bar should snap, not bend. The harder it snaps the more cacao butter you have.

5. Taste – Do we even need to explain!?

Ultimately, from smelling to the first bite to mid- and aftertaste, a chocolate tasting should be a sensory journey as more and more flavors unfold and reveal themselves.

Nibs of Info

  • Chocolate has been a part of human culture for 3,000 to 4,000 years, starting in the Olmec civilization.
  • The cacao tree is native to the Amazon. Cacao was carried with human and animal migrations throughout Mesoamerica (Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, etc.)
  • Within Mayan and Aztec civilizations, cacao became a harvested, grown and cultivated crop. They used it as a means of currency to trade goods. Mayan and Aztec armies were paid in cacao beans.
  • Belgians turned cacao into confections and bonbons, made for royal families. In subsequent years, access to these treats grew increasingly democratized.
  • Cocoa powder is defatted cocoa.
  • The active tonic ingredient in chocolate is theobromine, which also has energy-boosting properties without the jitteriness or withdrawal that can occur with caffeine.
  • All of chocolate’s flavor and nutrition comes from the cocoa solids (approx 40% of the bean). Cocoa solids are husky, brown and solid. To get these cocoa solids, you squeeze the beans to remove the cocoa butter, so only the solids remain.
  • 80% of chocolate’s DNA comes from the beans. The subsequent artistry, the chocolate’s unique profile, comes from how manufacturers and craftspeople choose to dry, roast, grind, mix with other beans, and temper their beans.
  • Cocoa butter melts just at your body temperature, between 80-90 degrees, which is why it melts immediately in your mouth.
  • Milk chocolate is smoother and less acidic than dark. The ingredients for a chocolate bar are just cacao beans and sugar. For milk chocolate, milk powder is added.
  • There is a debate about whether or not white chocolate is even chocolate, as it is only made with cocoa butter and sugar, rather than the cocoa solids. For a period of time, the USDA did not even allow it to be labelled as chocolate because it was not made from the entire bean.
  • The more cacao present in the bar, the healthier it is, as cacao is naturally rich in flavonoids and antioxidants. 

Recommendations for Buying, Storing, and Exploring Chocolate

  • Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and boutiques are great options where a lot of artistry is aggregated and you can explore.
  • Store chocolate at room temperature in a dark place. Sixty five to seventy degrees is the ideal temperature for storage.
  • Buy from brands that source their cacao beans responsibly. The more responsibly-made chocolate comes from South and Central America while industrially produced cacao comes from Africa.
  • To truly taste the cacao bean, buy dark chocolate. There are even palatable 100% cacao bars on the market.

Throughout our conversation, it was obvious that Peter found chocolate a rapturous subject; ruminating that chocolate has a little door, and when you crack open its door, there are thousands of years and a whole world of stories behind it. He encouraged us to crack these doors open by travelling to places where chocolate has a rich history or presence, meet artists or craftspeople who work with chocolate, or learn more about it by taking a course or attending a tasting. His expertise, guidance, and enthusiasm made it less intimidating to gently tap on that door and explore what lays beyond it.

Other articles:

Parenting with Sanity and Joy

Way of Living – Parenting June 8, 2021 Sue Groner joined us for a Way of Living conversation about the joys and challenges of parenting. She shared her CLEARR method, emphasizing how respectful communication with your child can alter the dynamic in your home, making your child more responsible while you experience less stress. She…

Keep reading »

The Power of Notebooking and Journaling

Way of Living – Literacy June 1, 2021 Stephanie Affinito, a literacy teacher educator, joined us for a Way of Living conversation about the types, benefits, and joys of notebooking. She illuminated how notebooking is an activity that can be tailored to our interests, needs, and hopes, ultimately supporting us to grow closer to the…

Keep reading »

Entrepreneurship in the Fintech World

Work – Fintech May 25, 2021 Luvleen Sidhu, the Chair, CEO and Founder of BM Technologies, Inc., joined us for a fascinating conversation about digital banking, taking her company public, and the practices that keep her grounded. She inspired us to start over with both our understanding of banking itself and how to reframe daily…

Keep reading »

Dementia with Dignity

Wellness – Awareness May 18, 2021 Patti Wick joined us for a powerful yet sensitive conversation about managing the effects of dementia, after a loved one is diagnosed. Patti shared data as well as lived wisdom that can help us to start over our thinking about dementia itself and start over our approach with loved…

Keep reading »

Timely Tech Tips

Way of Living – Tech Date: May 4, 2021 Christopher Hobbick, an IT expert, joined us for an important conversation about how to successfully, safely, and easily start over our digital lives. He shared the details of his upcoming application for estate planning and then provided quick tips for how we can use our devices…

Keep reading »

Bibliotherapy as Self Care

Category: Way of Living – Literacy Date: April 27, 2021 Stephanie Affinito, a literacy teacher educator, joined us for a Wellness conversation about reading as a method of self care. She defined bibliotherapy, illuminated self care, outlined the benefits of reading, provided tips on how to start over our reading life, and gifted us many…

Keep reading »

Finding Hope After COVID

Category: Wellness – Care Date: April 20, 2021 Mark Shapiro, MD, joined us for a Wellness conversation about his experience with COVID as a hospitalist in Santa Rosa, California. He vulnerably shared the personal and professional impact of COVID, his own takeaways and broader advice we can all use to emotionally start over, cultivating preparedness…

Keep reading »

Divided No More

Category: Work – Integrated Self Date: April 13, 2021 Atif Iqbal, a certified leadership and personal transformation coach, joined us for an indelible conversation about bringing your whole self to work; starting over by integrating the personal identity into the professional self.  The Challenges Behind Working with Integrity  Many of us have a professional self…

Keep reading »

Picture Books Are for You, Too!

Category: Way of Living – Literacy Date: April 6, 2021 Pernille Ripp, a teacher, author and educational advocate,  joined us for a conversation about the robust merits of picture books for readers of every age. She invited us to start over our reading lives by seeking the books that satisfy our interests and curiosities –…

Keep reading »

Fifteen with Gene

Category: Wellness – Fitness Date: March 30, 2021 Gene Schafer, an athletic trainer, personal trainer, and founder of ARC Athletics, joined us for a Wellness discussion centered around simple, yet effective exercises we can do in a short amount of time. Our talk felt particularly relevant after the pandemic, which has disrupted so many of…

Keep reading »

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Category: Work Date: March 23, 2021 Sarah Stamboulie, an executive, transition and leadership coach, joined us for a Work conversation about how to professionally start over while remaining in your current occupation or place of employment. She offered advice about how to navigate career development and proactively create opportunities within your organization, while being aware…

Keep reading »

Standing Up to Anti-Asian Hate

Category: Way of Living – Pop-Up Event Date: March 25, 2021 Soyoung Park joined us for an impassioned, vulnerable, and urgent conversation about her experience with anti-Asian hate in this country. Soyoung is a Korean-American teacher educator and a scholar of early childhood. Her presentation was extraordinarily moving, enlightening and informative. It invited us all…

Keep reading »

Humor, Seriously

Category: Work Date: March 16, 2021 We continued our Work series with an informative, hilarious conversation with Jennifer Aaker, a behavioral scientist whose research focuses on cultivating a meaningful life. She shared with us how humor is endemic to professional success, social connection, and personal well-being, and how we can foster more of it throughout…

Keep reading »

Chocolate — Sweet Indulgence

Category: Way of LivingDate: March 9, 2021 Peter Moustakerski, an absolute chocolate guru, joined us for a wide-ranging discussion about chocolate, including its long history, production details, health benefits, ethical considerations, as well as where to find high-quality chocolate on our own. He also led us through a delicious chocolate tasting, offering best practices for…

Keep reading »

Executive Search in Turbulent Times

Category: WorkDate: March 2, 2021 Gustavo Alba, an expert in recruiting and executive placement, joined us for a conversation about positioning yourself in the current job market, partnering with recruiters, and the effects of the pandemic on hiring practices. He offered insider advice and context to anyone looking for employment –   Reflect on Your Strengths…

Keep reading »

Staying Pain-Free While Working From Home

Category: Wellness Date: February 23, 2021 We continued our Wellness conversations with Dylann Craig, whose clinical area of expertise includes orthopedic and sports rehabilitation, physical therapy with manual techniques, functional and corrective exercises, and neuromuscular re-education. With the drastic changes to people’s work setup over this past year, 50% of Dylann’s caseload are problems with…

Keep reading »

Nutrition Myths

Category: Wellness Date: February 16, 2021 Next in the Startover series, we spoke with Sydney Greene, a registered dietitian who specializes in nutrition for recovery from addiction, disordered eating, negative body image, and chronic digestive issues. Throughout our conversation, Sydney stressed that ultimately, food choices are individual and personal. Your eating habits can be customized…

Keep reading »

Breaking Through Financial Boundaries

Category: Wealth Date: February 9, 2021 Our first Wealth event featured the expert Justin Charise, a financial advisor who leads a comprehensive financial planning practice. He explained the benefits of working with a financial advisor, addressed our questions regarding the new tax plan, and shared tips for making sound financial decisions that are responsive to…

Keep reading »

Breathing With Bryan

Category: Wellness Date: February 2, 2021 We launched our Startover series with a conversation with Bryan Mirabella, a certified instructor in Restorative Breathing, Oxygen Advantage, and the Institute of Motion.  He offered simple ways in which we can change our breathing and shared how it can transform our sense of well-being. How to Breathe Breathe…

Keep reading »

Upcoming events:

  • Breaking Bad Pandemic Eating Habits

    Wellness - Eating Habits

    • What prompted Jiying to startover? How does one make a dramatic career change?
    • How can I break bad pandemic eating habits and get back on track?
    • What should I do when I’m tired of cooking and out of fresh ideas?
    22 JUN
    8:00 PM ET
    45 minutes
    With: Jiying Zhang
  • How Indigenous Worldview Can Change Our Future

    Way of Living - Culture & Values

    • Why is worldview reflection important?
    • How is our original Indigenous worldview different than what guides most cultures today?
    • Is comparing worldviews a dangerous binary?
    6 JUL
    8:00 PM ET
    45 minutes
    With: Four Arrows
  • Neighborhood News in New York

    Way of Living - News

    • What is your personal story leading up to when you took over Tribeca Citizen, a neighborhood e-newspaper?
    • How has it been to report during the past year, and what are some headline observations on people and businesses during the pandemic?
    • Looking back at your career, including at Tribeca Citizen, could you highlight a couple of interesting stories that you enjoyed covering?
    13 JUL
    8:00 PM ET
    45 minutes
    With: Pam Frederick
X

Stay Up-to-Date on Startover

Sign up to be stay informed about what is going on in the Startover community—new events, features and personal stories.