To enjoy chocolate thoroughly, here are some tips from Thierry Muret, master chocolatier for Godiva Chocolatier, the Belgian company that is marking its 75th anniversary this year:
Fine chocolates are always fresh, contain premium cocoa beans and dairy butter, and are usually less sweet with unusual textures and natural flavors. Less expensive chocolates tend to use artificial flavors and preservatives to achieve a longer shelf life.
Consistent color and a natural satiny sheen are characteristic of fine chocolates.
A deep, fresh aroma should immediately be apparent when you open a box of fine chocolates.
Let chocolate melt against the roof of your mouth to feel the texture: It should be velvety smooth without any graininess. A nutty roasted chocolate flavor should permeate your mouth as you roll the chocolate over your tongue. Sweetness and other flavor components should follow and there should be a pleasant aftertaste that lingers on the palate. Fine chocolates have intense but refined flavors with subtle nuances of texture.
Chocolate city: The windy city - Chicago - is also the chocolate capital of the world. There are about 100 confectionery companies in the Chicago area, ranging from giants such as Tootsie Roll, Wrigley, M&M Mars and Nestle, to dozens of smaller confectioners.
Chocolate consumption: Nine out of 10 Americans eat chocolate, six out of 10 buy a box for themselves and five out of 10 will buy a box today.
The most popular nationwide brand: Russell Stover at $10-$15 for a 1-pound box.