- Published on October 4, 2013
- Written by Lexi Castagna
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 Lexi Castagna
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 Lexi Castagna
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 Lexi Castagna
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 Lexi Castagna
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 Lexi Castagna
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!
- Published on July 10, 2013
- Written by TCHOsen
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!
- Published on June 28, 2013
- Written by TCHOsen
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!
- Published on June 21, 2013
- Written by Lexi Castagna
“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.