Taza Chocolate, a local producer of Mexican-style artisanal chocolate, is now offering tours, and the school arranged a tour for students and staff. About a dozen of us took advantage of the offer.
Alex, one of the founders, conducted the tour. He studied anthropology as an undergraduate, and on a trip to Mexico he studied the tradition of making drinking chocolate. That gave him the idea for this company, which has grown from a small operation run from his kitchen to a small operation run from a small factory space in Somerville, Massachusetts. The production is as automated as it needs to be, but some of the work is done by hand. They buy their beans directly from growers who maintain organic farms in the Dominican Republic. Taza is apparently the only company in the world that buys directly from the growers and not from an agent; this means that what Taza pays for chocolate goes 100% to the people who do the work.
One of the interesting things about Taza chocolate is the process. It’s produced pretty much the way all other chocolate is except they skip the conching step. Conching makes the chocolate very smooth and creamy, but traditional Mexican chocolate isn’t smooth and creamy, and the traditional Mexican style is what Taza wants to produce.
The flavors are also a little unconventional, although the artisan chocolate makers are all producing unconventional flavors. Taza’s flavors include yerba maté, guajillo chili, and salt and pepper, which is pretty fabulous. We got to taste samples, and naturally we all bought some to take home.