from oaxaca to somerville: the finest stone ground chocolate around

Dear Local Pickins Readers,
Hungry for some more chocolate news? Have you ever seen Taza’s signature stone ground chocolate at your local grocers and wondered what lies beyond the wrapper? Read on…
Tell me about the beginnings of Taza Chocolate…
While traveling in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2005, Taza Chocolate co-founder Alex Whitmore was inspired by the simple treatment and minimal processing of cacao — so much that he was moved to start a business dedicated to crafting artisan, Mexican-style chocolate in the United States.  In 2006, Alex teamed up with his friend Larry Slotnick to found Taza Chocolate.
Describe Taza’s chocolate making process in five simple steps.
1) Roast – Taza lightly roasts cacao beans to develop their flavor.
2) Winnow – Roasted beans are put in a winnower to separate the edible part of the bean from the outer husks, and the beans break into pieces called nibs.
3) Grind – Taza’s Mexican-style chocolate is stone ground.  We use round Oaxacan mill stones (called molinos) to grind the cacao nibs.  Nibs are ground once on their own, making a thick cocoa paste, and then a second time after sugar has been added.  The stone mills are hand-carved with a pattern that leaves more pieces of cacao and crystals of sugar in the finished chocolate, giving Taza Chocolate its characteristic rustic texture.
4) Temper – Cocoa butter is the magical component of cacao that allows chocolate to melt in your mouth.  Cacao beans contain 50-55% cocoa butter, which solidifies at room temperature.  Our tempering machine heats and cools the chocolate to create a specific crystal structure in the cocoa butter as it cools.  Tempering ensures that the chocolate has a higher melting point, a glossy appearance, and a nice clean snap when you break it.
5) Deposit – Tempered chocolate is pumped into the depositor, which accurately doses it into molds.  The molds are placed onto a vibratory table to evenly distribute the chocolate, remove the air bubbles, and be conveyed into our cooling room to solidify.  The molded chocolate bars are removed from the molds, wrapped, and ready to eat!
Where do Taza’s ingredients come from?
Our direct purchasing model for buying cacao beans, which we call Taza Chocolate Direct Trade, is at the heart of our business. With Direct Trade, we are committed to maintaining direct relationships with our cacao producers and compensating them fairly for the high quality cacao they produce. We only develop relationships with cacao producers who grow their crop in a manner that respects the rights of workers and the environment.  Our cacao currently comes from the Dominican Republic and Bolivia.
What sets Taza apart from other local chocolate makers?
Taza Chocolate is stone ground, which creates a very unique texture.  The stone grinding process allows for pieces of cacao and crystals of sugar to remain in the finished chocolate, giving Taza its intense flavor and signature gritty texture.  Our Chocolate Mexicano discs also have a variety of flavors added to them — including chipotle chili, salt & pepper, cinnamon, and coffee – making for complex flavor combinations that highlight the bright flavors of the cacao.

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