Unbeknownst to me, I signed up for a tour of Taza Chocolate on Easter Sunday. Since nothing goes better with Easter than chocolate (who actually enjoys eating peeps?), it was the best coincidence ever.
You probably recognize Taza's stone ground chocolate by their unique circular discs that can be purchased at any Whole Foods Market and at many stores supporting local production in the Boston area. What is amazing about their story is that they started up in Somerville the same year I did (2007) and have expanded multitudes since. Gone are the days of roasting cacao beans in the founder's kitchen oven, but they are still wrapping all their rectangular barred chocolates by hand!
Our 45 minutes tour was led by Josh, a very passionate chocolate aficionado, and though it was interesting learning about how cacao is harvested, fermented, and processed, their dealings in direct trade and use of Mexican stone ground methods are definitely what give Taza its edge. The majority of their chocolate is directly exchanged from farm co-ops in the Dominican Republic that provides solely to Taza in Somerville. The beans are then all processed, shaped, wrapped (sometimes by hand), and then shipped out from the very factory I was standing in.
If you like chocolate, you should give Taza a visit. You get to sample a lot of their chocolates during the tour and in the store, which is obviously the best part. Their unique stone ground treatment of the beans give their chocolate a gritty texture that may be different than the European smoothness that you're used to, and as Josh brilliantly stated, "we're kind of like Willy Wonka's Mexican organic cousin."
Their tours are held in their factory in Somerville for $5 a person and reservations are required online.
|Our tour guide Josh schooling us in how to get from tree to bar|
|The storage site of all the beans from shipped in from the DR|
|The machinery to unshell the beans, and our guide in full hair/bear net gear|
|Cacao nibs, peeled and crumbled cacao beans|
|Where the wrapping happens|
|Josh with one of the stone slabs used in grinding|
|Samples of the house-made lemon vanilla cold chocolate|
Taza Chocolate Factory Store
561 Windsor Street
Somerville, MA 02143