Although the Boston area has certainly several things to offer in terms of chocolates or candy, I will focus only on a small scale chocolate maker that I already heard of quite a while ago: Taza Chocolate.
Not the only interesting-looking old-school machine in Taza’s chocolate factory…
Taza is a relatively new bean-to-bar chocolate enterprise in Boston, USA (or more correctly: Somerville). Their main philosophy is to produce an authentic Mexican-style organic, direct-trade chocolate. Some of this reminded me a little bit of some of the raw chocolate makers in the sense that they follow a very particular conception which largely sets the way their chocolate is produced. In some ways this looks to me as if the choice of a particular manufacturing process sometimes had a higher priority than the product itself. The most characteristic of these choices is certainly that Taza uses traditionally hand-carved milestones to grind the cacao.
The result is a very grainy texture of the chocolate because particles are not ground fine enough to be unperceivable1. In addition to their stone miles Taza has a typical rolling refiner, so they certainly could make less grainy chocolate. But Taza aims at producing Mexican-style chocolate which typically has the same kind of grainy structure. In the end it probably comes down to a matter of taste, so whether or not you like a grainy or rather a smooth texture remains a personal choice. And apparently when it comes to Taza chocolate personal opinions quickly become quite polarized, some obviously adore it while others find it pretty bad (some even awful, and this not only due to the texture).
Beyond any grainy vs. non-grainy debate, Taza follows some very nice principles and ideas in their production. Not only are their ingredients organic, they also get their cocoa under direct trade conditions2.
What I clearly like and appreciate a lot is their transparent information on their sources for ingredients. Given that there might not always be a simple good or bad option (but certainly often a ‘better’ when compared to conventional mass production sourcing!), I like the idea of making the open questions and debates as transparent as possible.
Impressions from a factory visit (bikes at entrance // cocoa storage and bean shell remover // roasting machine)
Taza offers quite a big range of different chocolates, most of them are flavored. While I would clearly prefer a non-grainy chocolate when it comes to pure, dark chocolate, I found some of their flavors very interesting (I found Salted Almond quite OK).
In summary, Taza is an interesting chocolate manufacturer following a very particular conceptual philosophy. But bear in mind that their chocolates are hard to compare to common fine-ground chocolate (what they call ‘European style’ chocolate), mainly because their textural approach largely ignores the changes in chocolate manufacturing developed in the past century3. Of course one could say that this gives a more ‘original’ chocolate, but for me that just isn’t important enough to sacrifice the great smoothness and snap of ‘modern’ chocolate (again: this is something I personally prefer). On the other hand: There are already many excellent bean-to-bar chocolate makers producing great smooth-texture chocolates, so that it makes sense to have few sources for grainy, rustic-style chocolates to keep a broad perspective!
- The grainy texture comes from small cocoa particles (cocoa solid), which can be felt on the tongue if their siz exceeds around 50µm. Most chocolate on the market actually is refined to a high enough degree to keep particles sizes below that sensory threshold. [↩]
- Fair-trade and other alternative trade models are subject of a very difficult (though intresting!) debate… I hope to be able to add more on this topic soon. [↩]
- By that I mostly refer to the processes of fine grinding and conching, which are responsible for a very smooth, creamy mouthfeel [↩]