Dave and I brought Kurt and Kim to the Taza chocolate factory for a tour which is right inside our town of Somerville, MA. None of us have tried this chocolate before so were pretty excited. I’ve always seen it in stores, but never bought it. I don’t know why I haven’t tried this chocolate before because all of their chocolate is DARK chocolate which is my FAVORITE!!!
Taza chocolate was created by some Boston born who were inspired by a visit to Mexico and a layoff from a job. Their story is really inspiring and almost makes me want to found my own chocolate factory!
We walked into the factory gift shop that had plates upon plates of samples. If there was a type of chocolate you wanted to try but it wasn’t out, all you had to do was ask and the people who worked there would gladly get you a sample! Some of Dave and my favorites included the Gingerbread bar , Salted Almond , and the Stone Ground dark chocolate bar .
After we tried all the samples, our tour guide started us off by a really nice mural on the wall that showed how Taza gets their beans. The tree is painted to represent the actual size of the tree and show that it is pretty easy to harvest the cacao bean pods by hand. The cacao beans are procured via a direct trade from the Dominican Republic, Bolivia and Belize. By being a direct trade, it ensures the quality of the beans. Our tour guide described it like Fair Trade Certified products but at a higher level. Depending on what chocolate they are making, they will use beans from a certain country. The soil quality and weather can change how the chocolate taste.
After we got our intro, we tasted some samples, put our hair nets on and headed into the factory. We were introduced to the roaster and the winnower, a machine that helps take the shells of the cacao beans. Almost every piece of equipment in the Taza chocolate factory was bough from some old factory so it can often be difficult to repair or maintain the machines. They are so old and the companies that made them do not exist which means there isn’t a product support line Taza can call. Taza has to rely on their onsite mechanical engineer to figure out what is wrong and if necessary create parts for them to fix the problem. Part of the reason why Taza has all these vintage pieces of equipment is because they are a big advocate of sustainability .
After learning about all the equipment, we got to test out some of the nibs, which is a byproduct of the cacao bean as it goes through the winnower. Nibs can be eaten as is, used for adding flavor to beers (like porters which are my favorite!), in mole sauce, or whatever else you can think of!
Next up was the packaging area. A lot of the packaging is done by hand with the exception of some of the disc chocolate. Taza recently had someone design a machine to help them wrap their chocolate discs. Even so, there has to be a person there to insert the chocolate discs to be wrapped! It was pretty impressive to hear the actual numbers of how much only 67 employees could produce with such a personal touch.
Just to further reinforce the personal touch, our tour guide brought out one of the stones that is in the machine that grinds the cacao beans. This stone is HANDMADE by one of the founders of the company. The founder had learned this process during his stay in Mexico and is trying to teach another employee so that he isn’t the only one with this expertise. The tour guide said that it is an art. You can’t just have a machine carve the specific pattern into the stone, it is all based on feel.
The official tour finished, but our guide didn’t run away from us. She said she really enjoyed our group because we asked some good questions and kept it interesting for her. One of the questions we had asked was if you can make hot chocolate with the Taza discs . We were then shown how to use the handmade Molinillo chocolate whisk and a Olla de Barro ceramic pot to get a real authentic Mexican hot chocolate. You can also use a pot and a regular whisk if you don’t have the fancy Molinillo and Olla de Barro!
The trip left us all with a chocolate high and some fun treats. I was going to buy some of the chocolate but am going to just pick some up at Pemberton which is right down the street from me. Instead, I got something that isn’t really right nearby… Big Spoon Peanut Cocoa ! All the ingredients just seem way too delicious to pass up!
If you are ever in the Somerville area, I highly recommend stopping by the Taza Chocolate Factory for a tour! The staff is incredibly nice, the tour is really informative, and of course the chocolate is amazing!
What is your favorite kind of chocolate?
DARK CHOCOLATE!! I think Taza may become one of my favorite chocolates. It has a grainy texture and you can really taste all the different flavors.
Are you interested in learning more about the stone ground chocolate process?
Read more about the process of how they make their stone ground chocolate here .