Saturday, May 2, 2009

Being Willy Wonka

TBF and the Chocolate Factory. I've got a golden ticket!!!

Although there was no whimsical man in a purple waistcoat to greet the crowd at the entrance it was a really interesting, fun day nonetheless as Taza Chocolate threw open their factory doors to invite the public in for their annual open house. Of course, TBF was among the first in line. Our tour was actually conducted by Taza Co-Founder Alex Whitmore.

Alex Whitmore, Co-Founder of Taza Chocolate.

Taza Chocolate is a leader in the craft of organic, bean-to-bar chocolate, good to farmers and the community and so unique it has an avid international following. They are the only producers of 100% stone ground, artisan chocolate in the U.S. What's even better is that they deal directly with farmers and producers. By cutting out the middleman they are able to pay premium, above Fair Trade, prices for their cacao beans, helping to support small farmers and ensure the utmost quality. They also manufacture in small batches, employ local people and are great to the community. Now this is the kind of company we need more of in this country!

The crowd assembles for the first tour of the day.

Our guide climbs atop the classic machine that roasts the cacao beans.

The process begins at a certified organic farm, most in South America and Mexico, where the premium beans are gathered. All of their trade documents are made public for full transparency and a Taza employee visits each farm annually. Once at the factory the beans are roasted in a small batch roaster which has a unique history of its own. A rare commodity, the roaster, built in the 1950s, had to be imported from Italy and fully reconditioned.

The winnowing machine that separates the dried shell from the cacao bean kernels or meat.

The next step in the process is winnowing, which separates the true bean, or "meat" from the now-dried husk. Then, it's on to the grinder.

The stone grinder used to grind the cocoa beans.

All Taza chocolate is stone ground, not conched. Conching is a method used in European-style chocolate manufacturing that intensely processes the cacao mass to smooth the texture and mellow the flavor. Stone grinding retains a more intense flavor and just one taste will tell you. My own reaction was how amazingly long the taste of chocolate lingered on my tongue.

Tasting the many chocolate samples at Taza.

Taza seems to have led the trend in more cacao concentration in their chocolate, offering several different gradations. They are even providing a 100% cacao product to a restaurant in California (unnamed but we could guess) which they promise will be available to the public within six months. So when it makes the foodie news just remember you heard it here first.

The simple, yet enviable, mission of Taza Chocolate.

For more information on their fantastic chocolate and this operation visit the website: TAZA.


  1. it's a good thing i couldn't make it to this: I would have been the girl the fell into the roaster.

  2. Beleive me, Martina, when I say I was quite tempted myself. Their whole approach is impressive and they produce amazing chocolate.