The Road Less Travelled: A Taza Chocolate Factory Tour (Boston, kind of)
Boston, though small-ish, is full of places to visit. A little piece of Europe in the heart of New England it has, for the time being, become one my favourite American destinations. I mean, how could it not? Sporting cobblestone pavements and narrow winding roads and old stone facades and sweeping boulevards it reminds of many cities across the pond. It has class, charm, history and a population of brainy people.
Oh, one other thing Boston has is unbelievable chocolate.
Like, hauntingly good, horribly addictive cacao.
For chocolate lovers in Boston a visit to Taza‘s factory is worth the trip to the suburb of Sommerville. In fact, even if you don’t like chocolate (which pretty much means you don’t have a soul) a tour of where Taza makes its sweet, sweet goods is an interesting, fun and delicious experience.
Alex Whitmore is the man behind Taza and his love for chocolate grew after spending time apprenticing under a molinero (miller) in Oaxaca. So impressed he was by the quality, taste and texture of chocolate created he brought the Mexican tradition back to the States. Settling in Boston he and his business partner Kathleen Fulton (now his wife) found each other and together they created Taza.
Aside from being organic and fairly sourced, Taza’s stone ground process is what sets it apart from its competitors. Grinding cacao beans into an unrefined and minimally processed product Taza chocolate is known for its signature, gritty texture and rich, sensual, taste.
Even though you’ll learn about the specifics when you take your tour I’ll briefly outline Taza’s chocolate making process in six simple steps:
- The beans are roasted so the cacao retains its subtle flavours.
- The beans are run through a machine where the nib (what is used to make chocolate) is separated from the chaff (a by-product recyled and turned into mulch).
- After separation the nibs are moved to another room where they are ground and pressed into liquor.
- Following this process the chocolate moves through a refining machine and extras like vanilla, cocoa butter, salt and/or chili are added.
- The chocolate is then melted and shaped into disks or rectangles.
- The finished product is wrapped (by machine and/or hand) and packed for distribution.
What I like about Taza is its minimalistic approach to making quality chocolate. Most items have five ingredients or less, with some listing “cacao beans and organic cane sugar” as the bar’s only components. It is refreshing to find a brand so passionate about chocolate and that has been successful in turning something that has been bastardized (my apologies, but in many respects mass-produced chocolate in North America is over processed and pumped full of so much crap it should not be called chocolate at all) into something good again.
Another bonus point for Taza is its chocolate is intolerant friendly. Containing no dairy, lactose, soy, soy lecithin, wheat, or gluten it is a godsend for people who suffer allergies or intolerances to the aformentioned products. What their chocolate does contain, however are “many of the vitamins and minerals essential to good health, including iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and the vitamins A, B1, C, D, and E. And chocolate has more magnesium than any other food.”
Just what I needed…additional reasons to eat more chocolate.
The composition of their bars aside, the company’s CSR strategy is equally impressive. Taza sees itself as a “pioneer in ethical cacao sourcing […] and was the first U.S. chocolate maker to establish a third-party certified Direct Trade Cacao Certification program.” This is striking because it means human rights and environmental concerns throught the business chain are respected. Taza maintains direct relationship with its cacao farmers and also “pays a premium above the Fair Trade price for their cacao.”
It’s a corporate manifesto I can get behind.
The Taza range includes enough options to suit many a taste(s). There are 60%, 70% and 85% options; chocolate covered hazelnuts and cashews; bars with almonds, sea salt, nibs and raspberries; mini-bars packed with quinoa and coconut, and bags of baking chocolate laced with extras like cinnamon. My personal favourites are the Bolivian 87% dark, 85% Super Dark and the 70% Chipolte Chili. Yup, I’m a girl who likes my chocolate bitter and shockingly robust. I don’t know about you but I find there is nothing better than a square replete with a kick (seriously, tell me something that goes better with chocolate than chili…or wine for that matter)? That said, I am waiting patiently for the day Taza comes out with a 90% or 100% bar. When that happens, I will turn into a woman possessed.
In all seriousness, it’s the best chocolate I’ve had outside of Belgium (not the sort of proclamation I’d throw around lightly) so, when in Boston, make sure to pay Taza a visit. Eat, drink and be merry.
As for me, somewhat high with all this cacao-deliciousness on my brain, I am going to stick my nose in the fridge. It’s time to get busy, you know, with eating.
All. The. Chocolate.
561 Windsor Street
Somerville, MA 02143
Tel: +1 (617) 284-2232
Tours cost: $6 USD per/person. Reservations are required.