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Flights of fancy chocolate online

Chocolate organization offers Webcasts with world experts and downloadable guide for tastings

Here's a great idea for anyone who's wondered about chocolate but is still waiting for Mark Kurlansky to publish a book on it.

Chocolate Manufacturers Association

The Chocolate Manufacturers Association, a club whose members include Nestle and The Hershey Co., is offering everything you need to host a proper chocolate tasting online.

Why should wine, cheese, bread and olives get all the kudos?

Aside from offering trivia of the sort found on many food-organization Web sites, the CMA has posted Webcasts of the tastings and lectures it hosts for the industry professionals who buy chocolate in bulk. There is also a glossary of chocolate terms (PDF), and a downloadable tasting-party guide (PDF).

And even though they might not be like Kurlansky's literary works on salt or cod, downloadable booklets are available on the history and science behind cocoa (powdered ground and roasted cacao beans) and cacao.

Among the tips you can find on the site:

• When tasting chocolates, start with the milder ones (those with the lowest percentages of cacao) and work your way up to stronger flavors.

• The more milk in the chocolate, the quieter snap you will get when biting into it.

• If chocolate has a grayish tone, called "bloom," it was exposed to a temperature fluctuation, but it's still OK to eat.