- 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!
- Published on October 8, 2013
- Written by John Kehoe
It was a dream come true — the America’s Cup held on San Francisco Bay! Having raced sailboats competitively in high school, college, and later, internationally, it has been incredible to see up-close and personal, the transformation the America’s Cup has taken. And it doesn’t hurt being able to catch some of the racing just down the Embarcadero from TCHO!
My love of sailing and the America’s Cup goes back almost 40 years. I grew up racing sailboats in Marblehead, Massachusetts. And, I toured the yacht, Courageous, in the summer of 1974 when it triumphantly returned to Marblehead after local sail maker and hero, Ted Hood, won the America’s Cup in Newport, Rhode Island.
A few years later, I watched from a friend’s roof as Courageous and Intrepid, another potential defender, would practice off of the coast of Marblehead. Courageous went on to win the America’s Cup for an unprecedented (and unrepeated) second time in 1977, skippered by CNN’s Ted Turner. Years ago, my father gave me a print of Courageous winning in 1974, signed by Ted Hood and yacht designer, Olin Stephens.
Last fall, TCHO was invited to tour the Pier 80 compound of this year’s America’s Cup defender, Oracle Team USA. Russell Coutts, a three-time America’s Cup winner, and team CEO, and Jimmy Spithill, also an America’s Cup winner and this boat’s skipper, signed a copy of my print.
Once a gentleman’s offshore yacht race, Larry Ellison, Russell Coutts and Oracle Team USA have launched the America’s Cup into the 21st century with ultra-modern, high-speed, carbon fiber, winged-sail catamarans which hydro foil across the water at speeds reaching 50 mph.
Watching these high-tech behemoths battling it out at high speeds on San Francisco bay was an incredible spectacle that amazed everyone, including my wife and one-year-old daughter when we would watch from a bluff over the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito. Sailors where naturally drawn to the event, but these incredible machines, flying across the water drew the attention of many more to this new era of sailing and sport.
While much of the action was visible from all over the San Francisco waterfront, NBC Sports and Live-line brought TV viewers out on to the Bay with helicopter and onboard cameras. Live-line is lead by Sam Honey, a long-time sailor. The company invented the on-screen first down line for football and the blue puck in hockey. Their work won an Emmy Award last fall for the creative new ways to show TV viewers what was happening on the water in sailing. On-screen grids, boundaries and visual effects all added to the interest and excitement of the event.
If all that was not enough, Sam Honey and friends invented an app, Virtual Eye. This app tracks the boats on the course in real time through GPS, with more on-screen telemetry data – speed, direction, and angles.
Then, of course, there was the racing and the drama. Emirates Team New Zealand won the right to challenge for the cup through an uneventful, one-sided challenger series. At the start of the first race of the America’s Cup, Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand proved to be closely matched and provided exciting racing in their flying machines. Emirates Team New Zealand was initially faster, maneuvered better, and sailed smarter, bringing the regatta to a precipice. They were at match point with a score of 8 races to 1. Oracle Team USA orchestrated one of the best sailing and sports comebacks of all time by making major changes to their boat and bringing aboard a new tactician. The team refocused and came roaring back from the precipice to even out the regatta 8 – 8. That was an exciting week of racing!
In a last, winner-take-all, race, Oracle Team USA was the faster boat and dominated the last race. The determination and never-give-up attitude of Oracle Team USA was, and remains, inspirational. The shore team was instrumental in this comeback using reams data that Oracle Team USA deployed to analyze the thousands of data points from the boat and film each night. This allowed them to find new speed every day.
Emirates Team New Zealand almost took the America’s Cup Down Under with their fast boat and solid teamwork by a group of talented sailors. But, it is formidable to compete in a technological battle with the U.S. team who has almost unlimited resources and an equally talented and dedicated group of sailors.
TCHO celebrates this extraordinary America’s Cup and Oracle Team USA’s win with our Sail SF artist series commemorating the innovation, speed and design of this amazing America’s Cup.
John Kehoe is TCHO’s VP of Sourcing and Development. He leads our TCHOSource farmer programs and our Bean Team that helps make great chocolate while helping make a better world.
- Published on October 4, 2013
- Written by Katie Gilmer
The TCHOSource Team visited Noarandino in northern Peru. Here we are with reps from the co-op, at one of their cacao drying patios. It’s empty because the harvest had already finished for the year.
The insides of a fresh cacao bean. Look how different two beans from the same pod can be! About 99.99% of the world’s cacao beans are purple in color when fresh from their pod, however the white bean is apart of a rare variety found only in northern Peru and holds a complex and unique flavor.
Mototaxi, the preferred method of transport in Northern Peru.
Fermented beans at a fermenting center in northern Peru. The color variation is due to different varieties of cacao.
Aldo goes in for a close up! He is the technical coordinator for our USAID grant which works in partnership with Equal Exchange, to improve cacao and coffee cooperatives in Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.
Close up of cacao beans in the fermentation process – crazy to think that stuff will become delicious chocolate, right?
- Published on September 27, 2013
- Written by TCHOsen
“TCHOPairings are all about taking classic, delicious chocolate combinations, and making people do a double take. Mint, hazelnuts, and strawberries are timeless partners with chocolate. With TCHOPairings, we really wanted to push these classics way out of their comfort zones by using completely new, unique ingredients (like freeze-dried mint gelato or custom baked pie crust), combined with TCHO’s award-winning Organic and Fair Trade chocolate.” – Brad Kintzer, Chief Chocolate Maker
TCHO’s next wave of tree-to-bean-to-bar New American Chocolate includes three mind-blowing TCHOPairings – TCHunky TCHOtella; Galactic Gelato; and Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.
New American Chocolate takes inspiration from our favorite flavors world-wide. We’re all about taking classic flavors and adding a New American twist. So we took an Italian classic since 1800 called gianduja (pronounced “john-do-ya”) and made the flavors all our own. Gianduja is traditionally made by combining hazelnut paste and milk chocolate, or some variation thereof. (A somewhat similar flavor known outside of Italy by the familiar jar of brown spread, Nutella — although, we hasten to add, that Nutella doesn’t have any chocolate in it.)
We innovated this classic flavor profile by adding hazelnut chunks to heighten the hazelnut flavor. And, of course, by tossing in a dash of sea salt – to heighten all flavors. The organic hazelnuts are sourced from Piedmont, Italy, be- cause they simply taste the best, and the chocolate is our award-winning SeriousMilk™.
The result? A New American Gianduja, with an utterly spectacular, decadent rich mouth feel. Incredibly sophisticated, insanely addictive. This is TCHunky TCHOtella.
Galactic Gelato came from the idea of taking one of our favorite desserts – mint ice cream with chocolate chips – and turning it inside out: chocolate with mint ice cream chips.
But how could we turn this classic ice cream flavor inside out? We had to channel our inner child. We loved astronaut ice cream as kids! We would go to a science museum and save up the few dollars our parents had given us to get a souvenir. Some kids sprang for the sea monkeys; some for the Venus fly traps. We knew what was really worth our much-deserved room-cleaning money most: Astronaut Ice Cream. With just one bite (and a little imagination), we were “3, 2, 1 … Blast Off!” in a rocket ship, hurling hundreds of miles an hour, leaving the world behind. We were, literally, out of this world! Years later, we wanted to bring that euphoric blast-off feeling back again. Galactic Gelato does just that. So sit down, close your eyes, and prepare for blast off.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Q: What’s a more New American dessert than pie?
A: Nothing. Our grand country is known for its fondness of, and creativity in, pie making. Pie is classic American dessert; a staple at every holiday meal. From Autumn apple to Thanksgiving pumpkin, Southern pecan, winter Sweet Potato, Boston Cream, lemon meringue, Banana Cream, Cherry, Coconut Custard, the American innovation in pie-making is astounding. We even have Pi DAY!
So how to blend New American chocolate with a classic American staple?
Step 1: Find the pie flavors that taste best with chocolate. We decided on strawberry rhubarb! The distinctive fruit sweetness of organic strawberries and the tang of a touch of rhubarb is absolutely divine.
Step 2: Work with one of our favorite bakeries – Starter Bakery, in Oakland – to craft the perfect piecrust. Ours is salty-sweet, and perfectly flaky, with a dash of cinnamon.
Step 3: Fresh whipped cream just wasn’t an option. So we mimicked the flavor by drenching the deconstructed pie parts in our delectable SeriousMilkTM chocolate. With warm, creamy, caramel notes, SeriousMilkTM is the perfect chocolate!
Step 4: Nosh on this insanely fun, all-around New American bar, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.
“New American Chocolate, indeed!”
All this mouth magic is wrapped in striking, design-forward packaging developed by Wired’s former creative director John Plunkett — perfecting an experience that delights like no other chocolate available today.
Kintzer sums up this chocolate milestone perfectly: “Welcome to TCHOPairings – part flavor nostalgia, part craft chocolate, part San Francisco psychedelic; 100% New American Chocolate.” CEO and Chief Creative Louis Rossetto adds: “These new bars will wow your taste buds, stun your optic nerve. New American Chocolate indeed!”
- Published on September 10, 2013
- Written by Chloe Stewart
You are cordially invited to a 5-course tasting menu. The catch: each dish is chocolate infused. Are you a chocaholic? Could you handle these taste explosions?
Il Fornaio’s San Francisco Restaurant recently partnered with TCHO to bring this fabulous concept to life. Spearheaded by Chef Ivan Giansante — an Italian through and through, with a passion for chocolate, hand picked each ingredient, from creamy caramel SeriousMilk™, to dark and intense PureNotes, and innovatively integrated it all into a set of uniquely conjured dishes, and carefully selected wines. How on earth would a chocolate enthusiast such as my self, pass up this opportunity? You might have guessed, I had the good fortune of attending.
The evening was a palate-opening experience. A culinary journey. A defiant moment in time, readying each willing personage present that night, to explore what it truly means to taste. After having our palates teased by some bubbly, olives, meat and cheese, followed by a warm welcome and introduction from an excited Chef Ivan, entered the first course…
Chocolate covered nibs added the perfect crunch to a berry adorned, and vinaigrette drizzled salad.
A roasted garlic and rosemary infused chocolate sauce married surprisingly well with salty and earthy flavours from pancetta-wrapped, eggplant and ricotta-stuffed quail.
And finally, where Chef Ivan truly showed his skill and expertise, his passion and his culinary know-how, was in a simple, and yet intricately concocted, milk chocolate mousse. Every flavour was pronounced, and allowed to shine in its own time, in its own right; while simultaneously highlighting the next. Each layer was distinct, evolving naturally from one to the next. From a flash of salt, to rich, creamy milk chocolate, moving smoothly on to the most fabulously flavourful honey, followed by the subtlest yet powerful peppery finish. The definition of balance. Perfection.
While, as one might imagine, there was indeed, a lot of chocolate, to experience another’s desire and excitement, to overturn prejudice, and contradict tradition, was too enticing to miss. The pairing of sweet and savoury elements in any dish, is so grossly under appreciated. I encourage you all to explore beyond your boundaries. To trust that mind-blowing culinary experiences can be made outside traditional circumstance. Don’t be afraid to try.
Thank you, Chef Ivan and your culinary team, for taking us on this journey with you at Il Fornaio. This is only the beginning of a fabulous, chocolate adventure.
As part of TCHO’s Inside Sales team, Chloë manages specialty retail accounts, wheeling and dealing to bring them all of the TCHO Chocolate they so desire. A true chocoholic to the core, she even has her own tumblr blog dedicated to exploring (and indulging) in a few of her favourite things: photography, travel, and of course, food! Check it out here — cocoamemo.tumblr.com
- Published on August 27, 2013
- Written by Katie Gilmer
A pivotal component to the TCHOSource program is to truly empower the farmers we work with, in country of origin. I recently had the chance to visit the Dominican Republic, and see first hand how our co-op partners are working to improve “farm productivity” — meaning how to get more cacao out of the same amount of land.
Theobroma cacao, the scientific name for a chocolate-producing tree, typically takes approximately 4 – 5 months to grow cacao pods (which are then fermented, dried, roasted and refined into chocolate). While quality and flavor are paramount to help raise farmer incomes and livelihoods, the challenge is also how to maximize both the output of the trees, and the sheer number of trees on their farm. But it can take years for a cacao tree, to grow and reach maturity from a seedling, posing a tough dilemma for cacao producers around the world.
Recently, as part of our USAID cooperative development grant with Equal Exchange, I was able to visit a few of the TCHO model farms in the Dominican Republic and experience first hand how they are working together to develop solutions.
The cacao producers/co-ops identified five farming management techniques to help them increase their level of productivity:
• Cacao tree pruning
• Shade management
• Applying compost and organic fertilizer
• Weed/pest control
• “Renovating” the plantations
The last method puts a new meaning to the term “renovation”. “Renovating” cacao tree plantations meaning they replace low producing trees with new, young trees — quite an innovative concept, but I couldn’t help wondering, “How?”
So I spoke with Doña Fermina, who owns a 20 acre cacao farm in the DR, and learned that there are two different methods they are testing out:
- A grafting technique: where a seedling is grown in a nursery, and then attached onto already-growing tree, this technique gives complete control to the farmer to decide which genetic variety is ideal for them.
- A basal chupon (“base sucker” in Spanish): a small offshoot is allowed to grow off the base of a mature tree, sharing the same root system. When the basal chupon is big enough, the old tree is cut down, allowing the younger tree to flourish using the already-established root system (this means the tree can produce cacao pods faster than a grafted tree and much faster than a tree planted from seed!).
Learning the techniques used by the farmers growing the cacao we use for our chocolate was an empowering experience! Not only was it interesting to better understand the advances being made on the ground in country of origin, but also to experience, firsthand, the founding principals of the TCHOSource program.
As part of TCHOSource, Katie Gilmer manages quality improvement projects at top-notch cocoa producers in Latin America and Africa, ensuring that TCHO gets the best cacao beans, year after year. She likes to travel (naturally!) and play ultimate frisbee.
- Published on August 23, 2013
- Written by Jane Metcalfe
The Bay Lights is an amazing project that is near and dear to my heart (and TCHO’s)! It involves so many different things I love — dear friends, art, and the San Francisco community.
I’ve long held a passion for, and engagement with, digital art/media and first met Leo Villareal at the ZeroOne festival while he was creating exquisite light sculptures and gaining stature in the art world. He has serious credentials: a degree from Yale, the Tisch School, and the Media Lab at MIT to name a few, but he’s also a regular participant at Burning Man, which has had a big impact on his life and work. There are very few artists who can straddle the contemporary art world of galleries, museums and art critics, while also being in the wild, woolly and unbridled world of Burning Man Art. (So cool!)
Public art has an incredible power. At its best, it’s a reflection of a community’s self image, its aspirations and its sense of community. Leo’s sculptures are so intrinsically optimistic, and this project is so grand and ambitious and beautiful, that I think it’s actually an excellent reflection of the audacity we’re known for out here on the wild coast. To me, seeing The Bay Lights at night almost looks like a curtain drawn that defines a space – a space that because of our proximity and my sense of home along the Embarcadero feels somehow like my giant San Francisco living room.
Photo credit: David Yu
TBL was conceived by Ben Davis, and managed by another dear friend, Amy Critchett — who was my first assistant at Wired (oh so long ago) and she once was apart of our TCHO team as well! Also, the original founder of TCHO, Timothy Childs, designed the connectors that attach the string of lights to the upright cables of the bridge … using his 3D printer, of course! Fun TCHO connection: Timothy and Amy were roommates back in the day, which is how we met him in the first place and how TCHO was born… this really is a family affair for us!
So naturally, we wanted to support the project in every way possible — a portion of the proceeds generated from TCHO’s The Bay Lights chocolate collection is donated to ongoing maintenance of the installation. The photograph used for this collection is also in support of local artists: We were scouting for the best image to use for the packaging, and came across a beautiful photograph by David Yu, which we traced from Instagram to Facebook to David. I really like the completely new San Francisco skyline he highlights (what, no Golden Gate bridge??), and the way he made the colors pop.
This collection a wonderful souvenir for visitors and locals alike, and an excellent way to support The Bay Lights. Get yours now!
- Published on August 2, 2013
- Written by Greta Miersma
From all of us here on Pier 17, we’re thrilled to introduce our most anticipated new product yet – TCHO’s Natural Cocoa Powder! Three years in development produced this delectably deep, rich, fudgy powder. And did we mention Organic and Fair Trade?
Cocoa powder is an essential ingredient in any TCHOPro’s kitchen. To whip up a delectable flourless chocolate cake, scrumptious pot de crème, or mouth-watering gelato, you need cocoa powder. Until now, you’ve had to make do. Not any more.
But we can hear the skeptics cocoa powder is just cocoa powder, what’s the big deal?
We’ll let our Chief Chocolate Maker Brad Kintzer answer that.
“First of all, TCHO Cocoa Powder is natural. That isn’t marketing jargon. In the industry, it means it’s not alkalized like the vast majority of commercial cocoa powder. Alkalization, or Dutching (aka Dutched cocoa, Dutch style cocoa, alkalized cocoa) is a process whereby beans, nibs, or liquor are put through some form of an alkaline chemical solution.
The purpose of alkalizing cocoa powder is usually threefold:
“1. Darken the color (think Oreo cookie)
“2. Reduce the acidity
“3. Flatten out ‘off’ flavors in the powder (often from using mediocre cocoa beans)
“Natural cocoa (non-alkalized/natural), on the other hand, represents the purest flavor of the cocoa bean, TCHO’s obsession. What makes our TCHO Natural Cocoa Powder unique is that it is made from beans carefully selected from cooperatives that we know and work with as part of our tree-to-bean-to-bar approach to chocolate making. We help the farmers make better beans which, in turn, help us make a more flavorful, appealing cocoa powder.
“Then we simply roast, grind, and press the beans into TCHO Natural Cocoa Powder — skipping the alkaline process entirely. While some think Dutched cocoa has its place, for us, to strip these specially selected beans of their flavor complexity would be a waste.
“Something else unique about our powder is that it has 20-22% fat, much higher than traditional 10% fat powder. Why do we leave more fat in? It gives a lusher, fuller flavor profile that makes everyone happier — even if it costs a little more to make.
“So, we have an incredibly unique combination of Fair Trade and organic, natural process, high fat cocoa powder, with a deep rich, and complex flavor profile. Yum!”
First Comments from professional TCHOPros.
But don’t believe us. This is from Betinna Perry, Executive Pastry Chef at Bagby Restaurant Group, one of the first our TCHOPro chefs to use TCHO’s Natural Cocoa Powder: “We love it! By taste alone, it’s a much better flavor compared to the[high end European powder] that we use. The other powder is an in-your-face, almost too intense cocoa that finished bitter — but yours has a better well-rounded chocolatey taste.”
Be the first to try TCHO’s Natural Cocoa Powder yourself.
We are releasing TCHO’s Natural Cocoa Powder first to our Taster’s Circle members, and our own-store customers at Pier 17 in San Francisco. Shipments to stores will begin soon, but probably won’t arrive until September. Be the first to find out just how great our new powder is.
And while you’re at it, try our entire new line of baking products.
Indulge with the caramelly goodness of 39% Milk chocolate drops. Get creative with the smooth semi-sweet/bittersweet 66%. Amaze with the insane richness of 99%. Add perfect crunch with Roasted Cacao Nibs. All your favorite recipes will go from good to great, super-to-TCHOPro.
So, join the ranks of James Beard award-winners, acclaimed cookbook authors, and the best restaurant chefs. Get TCHO’s Natural Cocoa Powder now!
- Published on July 24, 2013
- Written by Ashleigh Papp
If San Francisco were an ice cream flavor, what would it be? That’s the very question the ice-cream obsessed crew and flavor gurus of Ben & Jerry’s sought to answer in their City Churned San Francisco campaign. The San Francisco-inspired ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, available for only a limited time, was unveiled at TCHO Chocolate’s flagship store and factory at Pier 17, San Francisco last week. With a similar set of founding principals, flavor-driven product and commitment to ethically sourced ingredients, the opportunity to collaborate on this locally-inspired ice cream flavor seemed a match made in flavor-fusion heaven.
The voting process took place in the streets of the City and online — pitting different delectable ingredients against each other (Kika’s Treats vs. Cookies, Coffee vs. Cinnamon, TCHO vs. Peppermint) and using iconic people, places and things to count as votes for particular ingredients (Dolores Park vs. AT&T Park, fixed-gear vs. freewheel bikes, start-ups vs. food trucks).
Our epic battle? TCHO Chocolate vs. Peppermint, represented by FourSquare check-ins at tech startups vs. food trucks, respectively. Each check-in on FourSquare at a tech startup was a vote for TCHO Chocolate, each check-in at a food truck was a point for Peppermint. For that extra umph, we rallied our forces to capture direct online votes. Our tactics paid off! TCHO Chocolate vs. Peppermint was the most voted on flavor competition in the whole campaign, and TCHO the flavor with the most votes — 10,390, to be exact.
Photo Credit: Natalia Aldana
After weeks of collecting “votes”, the Ben & Jerry’s San Francisco flavor was finally revealed: caramel ice cream, with Kika’s Treats (graham crackers covered in chocolate), TCHO’s SeriousMilk™ “Classic” milk chocolate, and fluffy marshmallows!
The flavor unveiling kicked off with a set of fresh beats from DJ Boogie. Soon after delicious cups of the much-anticipated San Fran-tastic ice cream were passed out for all to enjoy! Belgian-style b.street waffles (drizzled in a molten TCHO Chocolate sauce, of course) added to the sweet feast. A live brass band made an appearance and art lovers of all ages were invited to enjoy the coolest form of wearable art from face painting artist, Bri, of BriTree. We were honored to celebrate with San Francisco chocolate enthusiasts and Ben & Jerry’s lovers, bringing together the Embarcadero neighborhood and community — all in the name of a custom-built, City inspired ice cream.
To check out more delicious pictures from the event: click here!