- Published on April 19, 2016
- Written by Laura Ann Sweitzer
All of us at TCHO have been heartbroken by the images and stories that are emerging from Ecuador in the wake of the earthquake that struck this past Saturday. According to the BBC, more than 400 people lost their lives and more than 2,500 were injured. The cost of rebuilding damaged areas will reportedly reach into the billions of dollars. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has described the quake as the biggest tragedy to hit the country in the past seven decades.
Ecuador’s chief cocoa-producing regions of Esmeraldas and Manabi were hardest hit. Countless cocoa farmers and their families were in harm’s way and are grappling with loss. TCHO has long term partnerships with Fortaleza del Valle Cooperative in Manabi and UOPROCAE Cooperative in Esmereldas. TCHO has built infrastructure, lead trainings and done business with these cooperatives and their farmer members for years. Fortunately, all of their farmer members survived the earthquake. Many of their members have lost their homes and the infrastructure at both cooperatives is severely damaged. With damaged processing facilities and the harvest season upon them, they run the risk of loosing the profits from their cacao this year-on top of all the immediate losses from the earthquake. Here are some images from Fortaleza del Valle before and after the earthquake:
We will continue to work with these cooperatives and help as we can as they support their farmer members and rebuild. In the meantime, two organizations providing immediate relief on the ground are Heifer Project Ecuador and the Red Cross Ecuador. Please donate if you are able. TCHO does not have a direct relationship with Heifer project or The Red Cross.
- Published on April 14, 2016
- Written by Laura Ann Sweitzer
Did you know that many cocoa farmers have never tasted chocolate? And that next to none have tasted chocolate made from their own beans? This fact is indicative of some of the very serious inequalities found in most cocoa supply chains.
Although TCHO is a small chocolate company, we are working hard to change this. TCHO installs mini chocolate-making laboratories – TCHO Flavor Labs – in farmer organizations and national cocoa research organizations around the world. Farmers, cooperative leaders, and cocoa scientists use TCHO Flavor Labs to enjoy delicious chocolate and to rigorously analyze the quality of their beans.
How does this help TCHO make great-tasting chocolate? Well, it’s next to impossible to ask someone to sell you a good-tasting, high quality cocoa bean if they’ve never tasted a roasted bean or chocolate. Providing chocolate-making equipment to co-ops in our supply chain helps TCHO source the best beans. Providing the same equipment to cocoa research institutes helps these organizations ensure that farmers in these countries are planting cacao trees that produce tasty cocoa beans!
This visit was part of the Ghana Quality Improvement (GQI) Project- a project TCHO manages in Ghana in collaboration with the World Cocoa Foundation, Guittard, and CRIG. The initiative is partially funded by the United States Agency for International Development. Through the GQI project, TCHO has been working with these partners to install a flavor lab at CRIG to ensure they can consider flavor, alongside productivity and pest resistance, when they research what seedlings to breed and distribute to farmers throughout Ghana.
The CRIG flavor lab was installed in 2014 and a selected team of tasters has been training hard ever since to consistently identify various attributes in cacao beans and rank the overall flavor. Last week’s visit was a continuation of that training. We spent lots of time tasting and identifying the flavor of cocoa beans! The visit also included training on cocoa bean analysis, roasting, chocolate making and some fun!
- Published on March 7, 2016
- Written by Heather Haskell
New Chocolate Bars?
You know that feeling? That feeling you get when you’ve already tried everything twice and are itching to try something new? Yeah, we hear you. We get that feeling all the time. It seems like it’s been awhile, doesn’t it, since we’ve mixed up some madness in the TCHO lab? Well, Brad and Zohara have been noodling around in the R&D kitchen, and the delicious fruits of their labor are finally ready for prime time. Now, we looooove the wacky stuff, and will certainly push the envelope on flavor design from time to time. But maybe we’ve been inviting you to party when all you really want to do is stay home, watch a movie, and chill. With these new chocolate bars from TCHO, we’ve doubled down on the classic flavors you crave. We think each one represents the absolute best in flavor-forward chocolate ecstasy, bar none, and can’t wait to share them with you. #TreatTCHOself indeed!
Dark Chocolate with Almond + Sea Salt
A rich blend of dark chocolates snap to reveal their nutty souls full of almond pieces mixed with flakes of sea salt. You haven’t had dark chocolate almond until you’ve had it with TCHO, and the combination is intoxicating. Not literally… But in purely chocolate terms, yes. Intoxicating.
Crispy, coconutty, and deep dark chocolatey – these are a few of your favorite things, right? We think you can practically feel the island breezes on your face as the tropical flavors of Coconut Crisp melt in your mouth. Brown rice adds a satistfying crisp to the bar that is completely addictive.
81% Extra Dark
If we had a dollar for every time someone asked us for something “just a little darker” we’d be, well, maybe not rich but definitely ahead of the curve. In fact, “What’s your darkest bar?” is probably the #2 question we’re asked after “When can we take the tour in Berkeley?” While we don’t have an answer to that #1 question yet, our answer to the second is this: an exceptionally complex extra dark bar sourced from four different cocoa regions and masterfully blended to create a not-so-sweet super treat we know you’ll love.
Toffee + Sea Salt
It’s crunchy. It’s caramelly. The intense dark milk chocolate is in perfect balance with the buttery toffee pieces. And we all know that a bit of mouthwatering sea salt makes everything just that much better. This bar is going to be a TCHO favorite in no time.
Mint Chip Gelato
Our partners at Gelateria Naia prepare a custom mint gelato just for us, and then we freeze-dry it into crunchy bits which we plunge into a rich dark chocolate blend. The result? An inside-out mint-chip ice cream experience that’s truly out of this world. Galactic Gelato 2.0? You are correct, Astute Reader.
The combination of salty hazelnut pieces and oh-so-creamy gianduja (aka hazelnut butter) take this bar to the next level. Melded with sweet milk chocolate, this bar is a melty masterpiece of an update to our beloved TCHunky TCHOtella bar.
For a limited time, we’re offering each one of these new chocolate bars at an extra special price both online and at our retail locations. Buy two bars at the regular price of $5.95 and get the third one free. We think you should #TreatTCHOself and try them all. No limit, keep buying two and getting the third free, at will. It is a limited time offer, though… Just through March 19th, so don’t hold back!
When will these exceptional new chocolate bars be available at a store near you? Well, it takes some time for products to make their way into the distribution chain and out to stores, and we can’t be sure your local shop will stock each of these items. But start looking for these new TCHO items in the next month or so, and if you don’t see them, ask for them! You have the power to get your store to carry our bars!
We appreciate everything you do as fans of TCHO to get the word out, and we hope you enjoy these new items. Let us know about your experience on our Facebook page or on Twitter, or on Instagram. We love your feedback and can’t wait to hear what you think. Enjoy!!
- Published on July 31, 2015
- Written by Heather Haskell
We always think we make the best chocolate you can buy; if you’re not proud of your product you probably shouldn’t be in business. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a delight to have your pride and joy recognized as outstanding by others. Recently, four of our bars received medals in the International Chocolate Awards for the Americas which is one of, if not the most, prestigious awards program in the chocolate world. Strawberry Rhubarb Pie won bronze, Galactic Gelato and TCHunky TCHOtella won silver, and Mokaccino won gold. We’d like to thank the judges and grand jury of the competition for the tremendous honor – it means a lot to us. Our gold and silver winners will continue forward into the World final, which is judged in the fall.
We’ve won awards at the International Chocolate Awards before, though we had to take last year off because we were moving the factory when the competition was due. But as each year passes, a flood of talented makers falls in love with chocolate as a medium and more and more fine chocolate bars enter the market. We’re proud to continue leading in the American chocolate making world, and feel that awards like this validate our commitment to the art and science of chocolate making.
Why does our chocolate win awards? Well, in a word, we’re obsessed. Obsessed with quality, taste, flavor, and the experience of eating a chocolate bar that blows your mind. We won’t send it out the door until we’re convinced it’s among the best things you’ve ever tried. And that notion of “best” isn’t only about how it tastes (although that’s critical). It’s also about hands-on involvement and attention to detail through the entire process from farm to bar. That’s obsession you can taste. Go ahead – try our award winners if you haven’t already. We think you’ll find them as obsessively delicious as we do.
- Published on September 9, 2014
- Written by Laura O'Brien
UPDATE 4 (04/17/15):
One more time, this time with feeling: We’ve moved, again, and this time, we expect to stay a spell! You can find our kiosk on the second floor on the crossover, between the Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom sides, in front of Camper and Auntie Anne’s.
UPDATE 3 (01/22/15):
We’ve moved! Again! We’re getting pretty good at this… 😉 Our latest spot is on the third floor, in front of Steve Madden on the Nordstrom wing. Come on by and say hi!
UPDATE 2 (11/20/14):
In addition to our regular kiosk, we’ve opened a pop-up holiday spot in the Artisan Market at Westfield. This temporary storefront features a small collection of local makers with great gifts for the holidays we know you’ll enjoy. The Artisan Market @ Westfield is on the first floor, Bloomingdales wing, next door to Tory Burch. There’s even an entrance on Market Street!
They moved us again!! Now, you can find us on the second floor on the Bloomingdales wing in front of JCrew and H&M Man.
A Taste of TCHO Kiosk Life
Closing the TCHO Factory Store on Pier 17 was a hard decision for everyone involved. In the interim your friendly neighborhood TCHOstorriors have relocated to a convenient downtown SF location. Our TCHO kiosk in the Westfield mall features many of the same products that you were able to purchase at the old factory store. Maybe some of you have been following our Brownie Throwdown, all of these supplies can be bought at the TCHO kiosk in our baking supplies section. If you already have been by our Westfield TCHO Kiosk, you might note that we’ve relocated – our kiosk is now on the first floor right outside of Kiehl’s and next door to Sunglass Hut.
Out and About San Francisco with the Kiosk Team.
In our free time the TCHOstorriors have begun a quest to find the most delicious TCHO about town. In honor of Sunday, we thought, why not enjoy a TCHO chocolate sundae? The team took a field trip to local favorite, Bi-Rite Creamery.
The famous San Francisco Bi-Rite Creamery is located just across from Dolores Park in the SF Mission. Bi-Rite is a local foodies paradise and perfect for #TCHOspotting! They even have vegan options, like Strawberry Coconut and for the adventurous, Basil!
Come meet the TCHO kiosk Team! As summer vacation comes to an end and the people of San Francisco get ready to head back to school, we’re still here for that little pick me up after a long day. Whether you’re on a tour or just want to stop by for a treat we’re waiting to greet you on the 1st floor near Nordstrom at Westfield Center SF. Check out #TCHOkiosk on Instagram or Twitter to see what’s happening with us.
- Published on August 14, 2014
- Written by Heather Haskell
Chocolate brownies are an iconic piece of Americana. The first written evidence of them refers to the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago where the proprietress, Mrs. Bertha Palmer, asked her chefs to prepare a special ladies’ dessert for their guests’ boxed lunches at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. That dessert is a super-rich fudgy bar topped with an apricot glaze which is still served today at the hotel.
It took some time for brownies to be codified into recipe form. Various not-chocolate-oriented cookie bars evolved at last into the first written chocolate brownie recipe in 1904 with the introduction of the “Bangor Brownie” in both the Service Club of Chicago’s cookbook, and Home Cookery, by Elinor Quimby, published in Laconia, NH. Brownies really began to hit their stride in the mid-1920’s as chocolate became more affordable and available in the US. America’s love affair with the brownie has continued unabated ever since.
So what happens when the “old American” brownie meets TCHO “New American” chocolate? We had an amazing experience trying to answer just that very question. We took a whole bunch of submissions from our fans on Facebook and ended up choosing six chocolate brownie recipes to test with TCHO. Some used cocoa powder, some chocolate chunks; all used butter, one also used oil(!). There was a very mysterious specification for cold eggs in a couple (to cool the chocolate, supposedly; the TCHO Baking Team was skeptical, but kept the faith). In the end, we found one that set the bar very high and left us confident that the most TCHO-riffic recipe had been found. It scored the highest on our taste test in each measured category like flavor, texture, and “it” factor, and it’s pretty darn simple to make, too.
Without further ado:
Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies
(adapted from Bittersweet by Genius Recipes for Food 52)
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1-1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons TCHO Natural Fair Trade Organic Cocoa Powder (ok, we edited that part)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (unsifted, measured by stirring briefly, spooning into the measuring cup until it’s heaped above the rim, then leveling it with a straight-edged knife or spatula — it should weigh nearly 2.5 ounces)
2/3 cups walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.
Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.
We aim to make this recipe testing business a regular thing… So what should we test next? Head on over to our Facebook page or ping us on Twitter or Instagram and let us know what other definitive chocolate recipes you’d like to see us evaluate. Slog away over chocolate in a hot kitchen? Oh yes, we’d do that for you. Of course we would.
- Published on July 24, 2014
- Written by Heather Haskell
All hail the brownie throw-down! We’ve put ourselves onto a big project here at TCHO – to try and figure out which of the world’s favorite chocolate brownie recipes is not only the best, but the best with TCHO chocolate. This is going to take some serious testing. Oh, the sweet suffering!
We settled on six (six!!) different chocolate brownie recipes to run through their paces. There are famous chefs, food technicians, and at-home tinkerers all represented in the group – no names too big or too small for us to explore. Also, we purposefully explored chocolate brownie recipes with cocoa powder, chocolate pieces, both milk and dark chocolate and everything in between. We also decided to bake them essentially blind: our bakers won’t know which recipe is whose.
Finally, when the big unveiling happens, the delicious brownie cornucopia will be unlabeled: our tasting panel (lucky, lucky office mates) will not know what is in each recipe, who baked it, or which recipe author they are tasting. It’s for science, people! It may take all day to get through them, but when the comment cards are revealed we’re going to have some pretty definitive proof of what the “best” brownies might be like. But we all know the best ones are #TCHOMade!
Stay tuned – results next week. We hope that the photos will come somewhat close to doing the finished products justice.
- Published on June 7, 2014
- Written by Heather Haskell
It’s no small task to move a factory, and we’d like to think that moving the TCHO factory has been a particularly delicate task. Our conching, tempering and depositing components are large, heavy, and fragile: like huge chocolate-wrangling Fabergé eggs. Those machines have seen the sweet inner molecules of literally thousands of tons of chocolate, and they’ve traveled more than some people do in a lifetime. Now, they’ve made their landing in Berkeley.
We’re pleased to report that our chief engineer, Matt, mechanic Bob, operations director Jim, and our quality assurance manager Monika are all still sane with most of their hair attached (except Jim, but he was missing the hair before we started). That team, along with our usual suspects on the Bean Team, has been tasked with getting this whole thing back in working order with all of our Kosher, Organic, Food Safety, and Fair Trade certifications intact, not to mention permits to operate, business licenses, etc. They’ve answered the call with stoic determination and skill, and as a result of their efforts we’re starting production in Berkeley this month!
Getting the factory moved, installed, and operational has been our number one goal – without that there’s nothing to see on the tour, or any chocolate to eat, for that matter. Once that part of the project is complete and our insanely delicious chocolate is rushing down pipes and conveyor belts again, we can finally put the finishing touches on the factory store and tour. Bear with us, as this part is taking a bit longer than we’d hoped it would. When we can pin down a date you’ll be the first to know; right before we start shouting from the virtual rooftops, that is…
- Published on April 29, 2014
- Written by Heather Haskell
The TCHOSource team just returned from a productive visit to Ecuador. One of the key efforts on the trip was the installation of a cocoa flavor lab at a farmer’s association that didn’t previously have access to this technology. This is the ninth flavor lab TCHO has installed world-wide, and each time we install one we’re reminded of how necessary and valuable it is for the farmers with whom we work.
The flavor lab helps farmers assess the outcome of their harvesting, fermenting and drying efforts, and tune their processes toward specific flavor profiles. How does the flavor lab do this? By making chocolate! We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: most cacao farmers have never tasted any chocolate, much less chocolate made from their own crops. Once they learn to taste what we’re tasting, they are well on their way to improving everything about the work that they do. And they can’t do it until they have a facility at hand to make chocolate themselves.
Of course, we’re with them every step of the way as suppliers first learn to use the lab, and then, more importantly, learn to taste cocoa the way chocolate makers do. Once they can match their processes with the outcomes, they are truly a partner for TCHO as we work together to make obsessively good chocolate.
- Published on March 25, 2014
- Written by Heather Haskell
Pier 17 has been our colorful home since the beginning of TCHO, and practically since the first day we’ve been pushing at its walls and edges trying to make room: room for growth, room for our mad-scientist experimentation, and room for our friends and fans to enjoy the fruit of our labors with us.
It was quite a process outfitting the pier with our East German/Scottish/American-made chocolate-making system – we had to pour a brand new floor, build a bunch of new “rooms” within the pier’s walls, and basically turn an ancient warehouse into a food production facility worthy of food safety top grades. Anyone who’s been on our tour has been a witness to our success in that endeavor.
We learned a lot in that process – and that learning is really going to come in handy as we approach the next chapter in TCHO’s story. We are relocating to Berkeley, to a much larger building that will help us build upon the work we’ve only just begun – obsessively creating the world’s best chocolate that celebrates the inherent flavor notes in cacao and brings real economic benefit to the farmers who grow it.
Our new location is in the Marchant Building at the Berkeley/Emeryville border (we’ll be on the Folger Street side). Within a few blocks’ radius are myriad up-and-coming gourmet food producers, breweries, coffee roasters, and other foodie destinations, as well as a host of great galleries and shopping opportunities (Berkeley Bowl West!!).
Our tour and factory store are on a short hiatus while we dismantle the production facility and rebuild it, but if you’re in the City and hankering for a chocolate fix – we’ve got you covered: we’re opening a kiosk at Westfield San Francisco Centre on the second floor in front of the Bebe store!
We’ll be posting regular updates on our progress both on our Tour page, and in our social media channels to keep everyone in the loop – we’re targeting mid-April to open across the bay. In the meantime, we thank you all for your continued support and chocolate love and we’re looking forward to writing more great chocolate history and joining the West Berkeley food community!