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TCHO New American Chocolate

TCHOSource: Empowering Farmers

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.

cacao blossoms, once pollinated will grow into a cacao pod

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

Cacao farmers touring model farms with TCHOSource

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.


Inspired By Our Backyard

Jane Metcalfe, President of TCHO Chocolate, with daughter Zoe


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.

The Bay Lights limited edition collection, TCHO Chocolate

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!

The Bay Lights gift tub, TCHO Chocolate

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!


The Cocoa Powder You’ve Always Wanted – TCHO Natural Cocoa Powder!

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!


We All Scream For …

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.

San Fran-tastic!

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!


Rockin’ it at the Summer Fancy Food Show!

Rob, James and Cat, of the TCHO Sales Team, setting up our booth in NYC!

North America’s largest food and beverage show, the Summer Fancy Food Show, took place in New York last weekend, and the TCHO Sales Team and our chief chocolate maker, Brad Kintzer, took the Big Apple by storm! Over 2,000 exhibitors gathered to showcase their goods — from chocolate to cheese, wine to pickled goods … and a complete lineup of TCHO Products! From the founding four PureNotes™ single origin dark chocolates to our first inclusion bar Mokaccino, a newly completed TCHOPro baking line with cocoa powder and awe-inspiring 84% drops, and the newly released flavored drinking chocolates!

But the real show stealer had to be the debut of TCHO’s new obsession — TCHOPairings! These are pairings of chocolate and ingredients, in a bar, unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before. More to come on these soon (we promise!), but for now, let’s just say we scoured the entire globe in search of the perfect ingredients to pair with custom-formulated TCHO Chocolate. Two of our new inclusion bars feature astronaut ice cream made with Gelateria Naia flavors, and with the TCHO booth right across from Gelateria Naia at the show, there was a fun sense of camaraderie amongst Bay Area food innovators on aisle 4500!

We loved the chance to see old and new friends at the show as well — Chef Nathan Lyon, and Bay Area dessert company, Just Desserts, even whipped up a flourless TCHO chocolate torte with a chocolate buttercream ganache using our 70% Ghanian chocolate. It was exquisite, and not to mention the perfect sugar rush in the midst of all things Fancy Food Show.

With so many passionate “foodies” under one roof, the TCHO team was constantly occupied — manning the TCHO booth, mingling with friends from near and far, and, of course, sampling all that was being showcased! Before we knew it, it was time to pack things up, say goodbye to our industry friends, and depart back to San Francisco. With such an exciting response to the new TCHO products set to be making their debut this Fall, we’re already looking forward to what’s next!


TCHO Your Pride!

The San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Celebration, simply known around the City as “Pride” is an annual parade and accompanying festival unlike anything one has ever experienced. From booths and dance stages to a Sunday morning parade, this celebration spanning the entire month of June commemorates the LGBT community and its allies, and made its way into the San Francisco community in 1970 and has become an integral part of the City’s culture.

As a San Francisco-based company, we decided a design inspired by the creativity and self expression of San Francisco’s Pride was a must! Our inspiration: the colors, livelihood and eccentricities of the SF LGBT community, which can be found in nearly every nook and cranny of San Francisco.

The original TCHO Lips design that debuted for Valentine’s Day, with its straightforward oh-so-sexy appeal, but also the slightest subtleness, seemed most appropriate. But in the spirit of Pride, our design team decided to mix things up in its color scheme. The colors — bright pinks, purples and more were chosen, because love is not a single color but made up of a spectrum of hues woven together.

Celebrating its 43rd anniversary this weekend, Pride is described as the “largest fathering of LGBT people and allies in the nation”. Proudly a member of the SF community and supporter of free love, won’t you join us as we celebrate the many colors of love in this weekend’s Pride festival?

For more information on the history of Pride and a schedule of events for this weekend’s festivities can be found here.

TCHO your Pride, and pick out your colorful assortment of TCHO here!


A Home Brewers’ Inspired Confection

“Bright” + Willamette Hops Handmade Confection

 The concept for this confection piece came, like many brilliant ideas, while I was brewing a batch of beer at home.  As an avid home brewer for several years now, I suddenly had the thought — why not combine my work and play, and share with the rest of the world? After all, there are many great confections featuring beer, but I had yet to find one using the components of beer before it is fermented.

Many rounds of beta testing ensued in the TCHO office before the final formulation was determined for this confection!

After ten or so rounds of various hop and barley combinations, there was consensus towards one in particular — Willamette hops paired with organic malt, highlighting the complexity of our “Bright” chocolate from Madagascar.  Light and refreshing, just like an American Pale Ale on a hot summer day.

That’s me, Ryan, at a truffle-making demonstration in Napa, California.

TCHO Artisan Confections are made by hand (by yours truly) and are sold exclusively online and at our flagship store, at Pier 17.


Man Up! Chocolate Pairing Celebration for Dads and Dudes

Last Thursday night TCHO became the place to celebrate dad and all our favorite dudes with fine finger foods and delectable drinks. We gathered a few of our favorite purveyors, prepared perfect chocolate pairings, and swung open our Pier 17 doors to let the pre-Father’s Day festivities begin!

And what a grand celebration Man Up! was. Samuel Adams poured four brilliant brews, Field Trip Gourmet Jerky proved meat and chocolate really are a match made in heaven, Kettle Brand Chips’ insanely addicting salty crisps created a heavenly couple with creamy, caramelly SeriousMilk™, always classic Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch shone when matched with a bite of TCHO, and the Bay Club made sure we burned off all those pre-dinner guilt calories with their innovative out-of-water surfboard.

Missed the festivities? Or just want to commemorate June 13, 2013? You’re in luck! Our Man Up! Pairing Menu is below. So go ahead, taste away! Just be sure you have enough TCHO first.

PS Did we mention the Ben & Jerry’s City Churned truck popped by to hand out dish after dish of their delicious ice cream? And TCHO is one of the ingredients you can vote on to be a part of their once-in-a-lifetime San Francisco flavor? Because they did. And we are. And you should most definitely vote for TCHO – and all your favorite flavors – at the City Churned San Francisco website. Cheers!


TCHO’s Beta Drinks of the Past

A walk down memory lane through TCHO‘s Pier 17 store would be filled with past Beta Drinks of all shapes, sizes and crazy delicious concoctions! In honor of kicking off our Drinking Chocolate Contest, we thought we’d share with you a few of our favorites.

Meet The Femme Fatale, a seductive mix of our dangerously delicious drinking chocolate, Blue Bottle espresso, and your choice of milk … a short, condensed in-your-face TCHOmocha.

And debuting TCHO’s SuperBerry Drinking Chocolate, this beta drink had the intense flavor of raspberry, acai and black currant combined with the dark richness of TCHO drinking chocolate, the perfect combination. And the homemade raspberry sauce on top was to top, yes please!

… Is your mouth watering yet? Swing by our store in San Francisco to try out the latest beta drink (changes monthly), and maybe even pick up a spiffy new cannister of drinking chocolate! Sip a TCHOshot to get the creativity flowing, put on your thinking cap, and test out your mixologist skills — enter your recipe here, now through July 7th!


TCHO Drinking Chocolate Contest: Official Rules and Details

Yahoo! You’re one step closer to becoming the winner of TCHO’s Beta Drink Contest!

Beta programs have been integral in TCHO’s chocolates. This co-creation method invites chocolate enthusiasts to create, taste and give feedback on the product, resulting in thousands of recipe iterations over the years and extraordinary chocolate.

Now, for the first time ever, we are extending our Beta Program to include drinking chocolate. Thats right, co-creationism in liquid form — and the winning Beta drink recipe will be featured in our San Francisco flagship store for an entire month. You, and your delicious chocolatey beverage creation could be famous! So … what’s next?

A few tips & tricks to keep in mind:

  • The winning Beta Drink will knock your (and our!) socks off with amazing flavor combinations
  • When it comes to ingredients used, less is more!  The winning drink will be re-created each and every time someone orders your drink in our Pier 17 store, so keep it simple and delicious! (We suggest 4-6 ingredients total)
  • No booze allowed — as much as we love our TCHOtini’s, and the endless adult beverage possibilities with TCHO, this drink will be sold in our Pier 17 Store, and must be appropriate to chocolate-lovers of all ages

Judging Criteria:

*This is where any extra pizazz or ‘wow’-factor can be rewarded, let that creativity flow!

Additional Contest Details:

  • Your have 4 weeks to submit your recipe! You have from June 6th- 11:59pm on July 7th, to submit your delicious drink recipe through our Facebook page.
  • TCHO’s Bean Team will re-create your recipes and host a judging panel for 5 days.
  • After identifying the top 4 drink recipes, we’ll turn it back over to you and let you decide the winner! A poll will be held on our Facebook page for one week only: July 15th – 21st
  • The official winner be announced on July 23rd!

Upon submitting your recipe, you are accepting all of the below terms set forth by TCHO Ventures, Inc.:

  • This contest is open to those 18 years or older as of June 5, 2013, or with the consent of a parent/guardian
  • All entrants are responsible for purchasing their own supply of Drinking Chocolate, and any other ingredients used
  • TCHO Ventures, Inc. reserves the right to exclude any recipes containing impractical ingredients
  • Should your recipe be selected, all rights will be transferred to TCHO Ventures, Inc.
  • TCHO Ventures, Inc. reserves the right to change the original name of the drink
  • The winning Beta Drink recipe will be featured in the TCHO Store for 30 days, with no monetary transfer involved
  • The winner’s name will be mentioned as creator of the recipe
  • Recipes submitted may also be included on the website:
  • Contestant responsible for submitting the winning Beta Drink recipe will be handsomely rewarded the grand prize!

Saving the best for last, the Grand Prize breakdown:

Total retail value: $219.27


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