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TCHO New American Chocolate

Cocoa can decrease blood pressure….

Cocoa Can Decrease Blood Pressure, Study Shows
Jody A. Charnow January 05, 2010

Cocoa products such as dark chocolate and cocoa-containing beverages can lower blood pressure, a recent meta-analysis confirms.

Steffen Desch, MD, of the University of Leipzig-Heart Center in Leipzig, German, and colleagues analyzed data from 10 randomized controlled trials that included a total of 297 subjects. The study populations were either healthy adults with normal blood pressure or patients with prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension. Treatment duration ranged from two to 18 weeks.

Across all trials, consumption of cocoa products was associated with a mean 4.5 mm Hg decrease in systolic pressure and a mean 2.5 mm Hg decrease in diastolic pressure, the researchers reported in the American Journal of Hypertension (2010;23:97-103).

The new meta-analysis builds on epidemiologic evidence showing an antihypertensive effect of cocoa-containing food. For example, in a study of 470 elderly men in The Netherlands, those in the highest tertile of cocoa intake had mean systolic and diastolic pressures that were 3.7 and 2.1 mm Hg lower, respectively, compared with men in the lowest tertile, according to a report in Archives of Internal Medicine (2006;166:411-417). They also had significantly decreased 15-year cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.


What chocolate really tastes like

So we have a marketing issue. We’ve innovated a new taxonomy for tasting chocolate, because the current “dark” or “percentage cacao” or “terroir/genetics” models seem insufficient to connecting consumers to the flavor the bar they are tasting. We created a flavor wheel to represent this taxonomy. And we designate our bars by the inherent flavor of the cacao we are using. Indeed, we use this taxonomy to source our beans, to create our formulations, to roast, and to refine, so that at the end, our chocolate is the purest expression of those flavors we can make.

The challenge comes in how to convey what we are doing to consumers. Some completely get it, like the Wallpaper guys at the NY Chocolate show last year, who wrote:

The biggest hit [of The New York Chocolate Show] to our minds was the San Francisco-based company Tcho, who cut a clear swath through the sometime mystery of single-origin (it takes a while to immediately recognize Madagascar) with a flavor-profile approach, offering the choice of nutty, fruity, chocolatey, and citrusy. It sounds simple, but it absolutely works, and after the exhaustion of tasting so many different bars and truffles and types, was the perfect – and perfectly packaged – close.

Still, we’re hearing anecdotally that some aren’t buying our “Nutty” bars because they’re allergic to nuts, or that they’re disappointed that there aren’t any raisins in our “Fruity.”

That, of course, led to some spirited discussion around here about how to clear up the confusion. One response is to change the language on the packaging. Now it’s going to read:

What Chocolate Really Tastes Like.
TCHO chocolates are the pure
flavors of cacao. There are no nuts
in our “Nutty,” nor fruit in “Fruity.”
As with wine, what you taste is
precisely, and only, what’s in the
fruit itself. Because we believe
that flavor – not vague terms
like “dark,” “% cacao,” or “origin” –
is the real key to savoring chocolate.

Then we started to think – if we had some marketing money to spend, what kind of a campaign would we create to get this message out? With a tip of our hat to Steve Jobs and his Think Different campaign that appropriated all the heros of the 20th century to help Apple when it really needed it, herewith . . .


Remark (1)


Michael Penland:

Hi Louis and team,

It wasn’t until I read the new flavor blurb on the back of the bar I got at the TCHO holiday jam that I really believed all I was tasting was chocolate.  I was totally convinced that there was actual citrus in the citrus, nuts in the nutty, etc, but was pleasantly surprised (and now infatuated with) the purity of the flavor profiles.

You’re right, this is a tricky market differentiation issue, especially with so many additive chocolate bars out there. Educating consumers will take time, but there may be an some simple solutions in the interim.

While the blurb helps, you should consider -if only for a time- adding a term like “varietal” to the bar name to emphasis the distinction, e.g., Dark Chocolate “Fruity Varietal”.  This would help clarify that “Fruity” is describing the cacao and not any additives, while also reinforcing the similarities to the wine industry.

PS – Great meeting you at the holiday jam; I’m glad we got the music going ;-)
Take care.


Chocolate protects against cardiac mortality following myocardial infarction

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the USA. More than 26 million non-institutionalized adults are diagnosed with heart disease. Over 1.25 million Americans suffer a heart attack each year…

Chocolate Is Associated with Lower Mortality Following First Myocardial Infarction [MI]

Amount of chocolate consumption was related inversely to cardiac-related mortality during an 8-year follow-up
Several studies have suggested that chocolate, perhaps in a process mediated by its antioxidant content, protects the heart (JW Gen Med Jul 10 2007 and JW Gen Med Sep 23 2003). A Swedish team identified 1169 nondiabetic patients who were hospitalized with initial nonfatal myocardial infarctions. Detailed food histories for the preceding 12 months were completed by 86% of patients; participants were followed for an additional 8 years.

Compared with patients who never ate chocolate, those who ate chocolate less than once monthly suffered 27% less cardiac-related mortality (after multivariate adjustments); risk was 44% lower for weekly chocolate eaters and 66% lower for those who ate chocolate two or more times weekly. Nonfatal adverse cardiac events, strokes, and total mortality, however, were not related clearly to chocolate consumption. Consuming other sweets (e.g., cookies, cakes, ice cream) had no relation to cardiac mortality.

Comment: The strengths of this study are its size and long-term follow-up. The main weakness is that chocolate consumption was assessed only once, during hospitalization for initial MIs, and not during follow-up.

To me, the most interesting result of the study is that chocolate strongly protected against cardiac mortality but not against adverse cardiac events. The same finding has been reported for ω-3 fatty acid supplements, which suggests that the primary beneficial effect of both chocolate and ω-3 fatty acid supplements is in suppressing arrhythmias. 

— Anthony L. Komaroff, MD 

Published in Journal Watch General Medicine September 3, 2009

Janszky I et al. Chocolate consumption and mortality following a first acute myocardial infarction: The Stockholm Heart Epidemiology Program. J Intern Med 2009 Sep; 266:248.[Medline® Abstract]

Copyright © 2009. Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved.


Dark chocolate could be stress buster

more great news for us chocolate lovers…

Dark chocolate could be stress buster
By Jane Byrne , 16-Nov-2009
Related topics: The Big Picture

Daily consumption of 40 grams of dark chocolate for two weeks can reduce stress and benefit metabolism and microbial activity in the gut, claims scientists based at the Nestle Research Centre.

In a study published in Journal of Proteome Research the Lausanne based researchers said their results show that eating dark chocolate daily reduced stress hormone levels in those who had high anxiety levels.

The authors maintain that there is growing pool of evidence pointing to the potential health implications of dark chocolate constituents, with the flavonoids in cocoa linked to better cardiovascular health through the maintenance of low blood pressure, improved endothelial function, and a reduction in thrombotic, oxidative and inflammatory states.

However, they claim that the mechanisms of action of chocolate bioactive components at the molecular levels are poorly understood, particularly in the case for benefits related to brain health and improvement of stress states where only symptomatic data, such as brain blood flow, are available

The researchers said that, in order to evaluate the metabolic changes associated with dark chocolate consumption they looked at the effects of eating 40 grams of dark chocolate every day for two weeks on blood and urine measures of stress in 30 healthy adults.

They explained that they used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and mass spectrometry (MS) to study changes in metabolism, and that the subjects completed psychological questionnaires, to enable them to be grouped into low and high anxiety traits.

Half of the chocolate was eaten mid-morning and the other half was eaten mid-afternoon, according to the study.

The authors stated that they took urine and blood plasma samples from the participants at the beginning, halfway through, and at the end of the two week study.

The researchers said the results show that they were lower levels of stress hormones in the samples at the end.

“Dark chocolate reduced the urinary excretion of the stress hormone cortisol and catecholamines,” they reported.

The authors conclude that subjects with higher anxiety trait had a distinct metabolic profile, and that this profile was indicative of a different energy homeostasis, hormone metabolism, and gut microbe activity, and that dark chocolate also partially normalized stress-related differences in energy metabolism and gut microbial activities.

Source: Journal of Proteome Research

Published online ahead of print: DOI: 10.1021/pr900607v

Title: Metabolic Effects of Dark Chocolate Consumption on Energy, Gut Microbiota, and Stress-Related Metabolism in Free-Living Subjects

Authors: S. Kochhar et al


Flavor Lab #3

Last week we shipped our 3rd FlavorLab! This time to Peru. The shipment comprised of six boxes, 109 kg of TCHOSource technology innovation and commitment.

Our FlavorLabs are key component in our highly cost-effective program to make lab-scale chocolate making accessible to those who hadn’t had access to it before. The FlavorLab is our way of empowering our producer partners by putting them “in-the-loop” by enabling producers to make the connection of how changes and variations in post-harvest processing can greatly affect quality and flavor.

TCHO FlavorLabs have the same basic configuration we use everyday at Pier 17 to conduct both physical (levels of fermentation, bean size and count, etc) and sensory analysis (taste, acidity, bitterness, flavor, etc) of the beans. This tool allows our cooperative partners to better understand the true value and potential of their cacao: quality and flavor.

We are seeing success quicker than we had anticipated. The partners of our first very first FlavorLab already have shown a big win. Before their FlavorLab, their cacao did not even place in the annual national cacao contest based on liquor flavor, at which we were judges. Six months after our installing of a FlavorLab, they placed 3rd in the country!

This particular FlavorLab installation is super exciting for a number of reasons.

The FlavorLab component of the TCHOSource program is showing that it is “scalable”—or able to readily grow in size. Rather than our traveling down with the lab to do the set up and training, now our infield technical partner (and TCHO BeanTeam rock star) Aldo is doing the installation and training at the next Coop. This is very encouraging; the people we’ve trained are training others and we are keeping costs down at the same time. A truly scalable model. Way to go Aldo!

Building the FlavorLabs requires good coordination and teamwork. TCHOSource receives great support from our engineering team and from our founder, Timothy Childs, whose vision and scrappy approach made FlavorLabs possible. They customize a number of the off-the-shelf components as well as the fabrication our internet-enabled custom temperature control boxes (TCHO NetNode) that allows us to maintain a steady and repeatable temperature range during roasting, refining and conching. Thanks, Matt and Robert! Also hats off to Jeremy and Pete in our shipping department that got everything out the door during our busiest holiday season yet. And last but hardly least, huge props to our TCHOSource Program Manager and sustainability Super Star, Ann Cleaveland, for pulling this all together.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect is that our concept of making high quality liquor through good roasting, conching and tempering for proper sensory analysis is beginning to catch on. We hope our “open source” model for improving quality of cacao will become a standard, allowing cooperatives to get better prices, which can in turn drive interest in productivity, leading to real economic sustainability. TCHOSource in action – improving quality, changing lives!


Remembering HotWired

This is a picture of my desk at TCHO.

Notice the HotWired mousepad that the tormented saint Carl Steadman gave me. Carl was the co-creator with Joey Anuff of Suck, the first blog ever, and for years the arbiter of the Web. Suck was born at HotWiredHotWired was the first website that combined original content (as in, not repurposed) and Fortune 500 advertising. It did it 15 years ago last week. I and about 20 other intrepid souls were in the room in the Wired building in SOMA when Brian Behlendorf flipped the metaphorical switch to make us visible to the Net, the first click arrived, and we served our first page.

It’s hard to imagine now what life was like just before we served that first page. As we stood there, we were wondering exactly what would happen next. Because until then, the Internet was ferociously anti-commercial. Mosaic, the first Web browser, had only been released the year before. There was no such thing as Web media with original content. There were no Fortune 500 ads on the Web. Indeed, “www” meant precisely nothing to the vast majority of the planet. What was running through our minds was: would the Internet throw up on us, shun us, make us outcasts, kill our baby – and maybe take downWired with it?

The whole HotWired project was a huge leap of faith. When we launched Wired 21 months before in January 1993, we carried not one word about the World Wide Web. That happened in the second issue, two months later, when John Browning wrote a small piece about Tim Berners-Lee’s invention at CERN in Switzerland. Wiredwas on the Net from the beginning, serving pages via FTP. Then we created a presence on AOL, but that was truly an unhappy experience, since all site maintenance had to be done by AOL, and putting stuff up took days if not weeks.

We were finally inspired to think about moving to the Web by the rude shock of waking up one fine morning, in the Fall of 1993, to discover that all our issues were suddenly available on the Web – thanks, it turned out, to a couple of young engineers in Singapore. That was about the time we ran a cover story by William Gibson about Singapore called “Disneyland with the Death Penalty.” Turned out the engineers had wanted people to have access to our material, even if the government had banned our issue, so they had sucked down the content that had been available via FTP and put it on the Web. We purchased the site back from them, then let it lie fallow.

That didn’t end our interest in the Web, however. We put Vice President and CTO Andrew Anker in charge of creating a business plan for our own website, dubbed HotWiredHotWired was amibitious: we didn’t want to put Wired on the Web, we wanted to make content specifically for the Web, that took advantage of the new medium.

Meanwhile, Jane and I had been continually raising money since 1991 to fund Wired. At the end of beginning of 1994, the year after our launch, we finally secured a $3.5M investment from Condé Nast, and were thrilled that we could finally stop raising money and turn our undivided attention to building our business.

One of the conditions of the investment, that we had insisted on, was that Condé Nast would not have control of Wired. And Condé Nast was okay with that because they had studied our business plan and had figured that we couldn’t possibly accomplish the publishing program we had outlined, and would have to come back to them for more money, at which point they would then get control.

The funds clicked up in our account in January. In February, we won the National Magazine Award. In March, we began direct mail to grow circulation, dropping a million dollars on our first mailings. And then in April, we approved Andrew’s HotWired business plan – earmarking money from the Condé Nast investment. HotWired had not figured anywhere in Wired‘s original business plan. Condé Nast had not been told about the HotWired project until after we launched it. They certainly didn’t approve it.

Even internally, people were skeptical – our first business wasn’t profitable yet and here we were starting another? In effect, we were taking the money that Condé Nast had given us for growing Wiredcirculation and investing it a completely unknown, untried, potentially dangerous project to invent Web media.

The 20+/- person HotWired team set up shop in loft space at Third and Brannon in what was to become the center of the Web universe, South of Market, San Francisco. We then beavered away round the clock, drawing on a diverse collection of talents to shape our offering. We met with advertisers to convince them to take a flyer on what we promised would be the future of media. In the end, we actually secured a dozen big advertisers.

Since we didn’t have the capacity to also produce the ads, we handed that off to Jonathan Nelson at his fledgling (soon to become Web powerhouse) Organic. I still remember sitting next to art directorBarbara Kuhr fiddling with the dimensions of what would later become the first, hated but essential “banner ad.”

The target launch date came and went, despite my urgings that “Media was software that shipped on time.” Pressure mounted as Jane watched the costs increase. People at Wired not involved in the project became even more skeptical. The new launch date slipped to the end September. And then finally to October. Would we make that date? And how could we have justified ever taking our Condé Nast nestegg and placing it all on the turn of the roulette wheel calledHotWired?

Reminded me of the scene in Lost in America where David (Albert Brooks) is appalled that his wife Linda (Julie Haggerty) had just gambled away their nest egg in Las Vegas:

David: Maybe I didn’t explain the nest egg to you. If you had understood … You know it’s a very sacred thing, the nest egg, and if you had understood the Nest Egg Principle, as we will now call it in the first of many lectures that you will get, because if we are ever to acquire another nest egg, we both have to understand what it means. The nest egg is a protector, like a god, and we sit under the nest egg and we are protected by it. Without it, no protection. Want me to go on? It pours rain. Hey! The rain hits the egg and pours off the side. Without the egg? Wet. It’s over. But you didn’t understand it and that’s why we’re where we are.

Linda: I understood the nest egg …

David: Please do me a favor. Don’t use the word. You may not use that word. It is off-limits to you. Only those in this house that understand the nest egg may use it. And don’t use any part of it either. Don’t use “nest.” Don’t use “egg.” You’re out in the forest, you can point – the bird lives in a round stick. And … and … you have things over easy with toast.

Building a business is never easy. Everyone who does it faces enormous threats — financial, commercial, physical, human, emotional, existential even. The end is always near, success is always subjective, and the feeling of accomplishment always fleeting, as the next, life-threatening challenge looms. Finally, the 20 of us were huddled around Brian’s screen, months of night and day work had come down to this moment – then the first hit on our server arrived, we served our first page, and sheer relief, then exhilaration swept the room, before we realized that, holy shit, we’d have to do this insane effort every day until the end of time.

Fifteen years later we can appreciate the dimensions of what was unleashed that October day. HotWired took off like a rocket. For the first six months, we had more than fifty percent of all web advertising. By 1995, HotWired had more employees than Wired. Even by 1996, our revenues were larger than our nearest rivals Yahoo, Excite, and Infoseek.

This was HotWired’s office; there are 125 Web pioneers in this picture:

And pioneers they were. I never thought we were inventing a new medium. The medium was born with all the genetic traits it would ever have – our job was to discover them, like Lewis and Clark didn’t invent the West, they discovered it. We didn’t know where we were going, all we knew was we had to explore every possibility. The room was a hive of energy and creation – as Gary Wolf put it, people felt they had permission to be bad.

By 1997, our search engine HotBot had been selected as the best of the Web by the computer books. That same year, headcount peaked at 170. By 1998, Wired Digital had more than $20M in revenue, and was cash flow positive. By 1999, Wired Digital had been absorbed by Lycos. And now, 15 years later, Wired Digital is once more part of the Wired brand, now owned by Condé Nast (and yes, they did end up with control, but that’s another story). Oh, and that banner ad we’d been fiddling with? – responsible for a $24B business, and counting, including killing newspapers and inspiring new forms of banner ads like this introduced by a German company:

All of this was brought to mind by an email from Andrew Anker last week inviting me and other HotWired alumni to a reunion drink at one of HotWired’s favorite watering holes in the day, Hotel Utah, to celebrate HotWired’s 15th birthday. Great seeing old friends, catching up, remembering that amazing time.

People sometimes ask me what’s the connection between Wired and TCHO? And sometimes I answer that maybe chocolate was always my destiny, and Wired as the detour. Recently I’ve been wondering whether I should reply that I was once involved in reinventing media, and now it’s chocolate. Or maybe I should just admit that spinning that roulette wheel and sharing the exhilaration and terror of business creation with twenty fearless souls is something I’m genetically incapable of resisting.

Happy Birthday, HotWired, and thank you, each and every one of the wonderful adventurers who were part of that amazing moment.


How do you build a chocolate brand?

From Edenspiekermann, our talented design firm.



21C: Voted #1 Hotel in U.S.

21c Museum Hotel: Voted #1 Hotel in U.S. and #6 in World in Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2009

I told you they were cool, didn’t I? You heard it here first!


21C Museum Hotel offers TCHO some downright legendary Southern Hospitality

21C Museum Hotel listed as one of best places to stay in the world by readers of Conde Nast Traveler Magazine

Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown know how to do things right. For one thing, they’re really good at collecting contemporary art, and they love sharing their collection with art lovers and art novices alike. They’re really good at attracting smart and interesting people to collaborate with, mentor, etc. And they’re extremely good at hospitality, as their award winning and ultra popular boutique hotel in Louisville, KY proves. 21C Museum/Hotel is pretty much the hippest thing happening in my old hometown. And I was back there last week to help usher in TCHO for their turn down service.

The happy and ultra helpful staff were all wearing TCHO Tshirts the day of the launch, and there were huge bowls full of TCHO at both the front desk of the hotel and the restaurant. Nice touch!

That night, Steve and Laura Lee hosted a dinner in honor of Ezra Kellerman, Daan Roosegaarde and Leslie Lyons, three artists participating in the Ideas Festival, a sort of Southern-style TED conference. The dinner featured a 5 course, chocolate infused extravaganza created by Executive Chef, Michael Paley, from the hotel’s restaurant, Proof on Main. The menu consisted of:

  • Amuse Bouche: roasted fresh bacon (yepper, bacon and chocolate, check!), watermelon, blu di Bufala, 68% TCHOPro, and smoked cocoa powder
  • Early Autumn Pumpkin Soup: creme fraiche, pecan bread crumbs, shaved TCHO chocolate
  • Tuscan Cured Swordfish: eggplant stewed with chocolate and cinnamon, cucumber pine nut gazpacho
  • Roasted Lamb Rack: braised Swiss chard, panelle, TCHO mole
  • Poached Asian Pear: TCHOPro and caramel gelato, shortbread cookie

It was an inspired meal and oh so flavorful.

Steve WIlson congratulates Michael Paley on an inventive and exquisite dinner:

The dinner guests were an inspired and inspiring lot themselves. Kulapat Yantrasast, architect for the new wing of the Speed Museum, was there along with Lisa Resnik, the head of the Speed’s capital campaign.

Luyanda Mpahlwa, of MMA Architects in Cape Town, was also at the dinner. He was on hand to accept the CurryStone design prize, awarded during the Idea Festival last year. But because he was once an antiapartheid fighter imprisoned with Nelson Mandela, he has never been able to get a US visa until this year. I tried to convince him that all of America was just like Steve and Laura Lee’s Louisville, but he wasn’t buying it. Now he hopes to spend lots of time in the US, and to come see the TCHOcolate factory next time.

Local architect, entrepreneur and a dear old friend of mine, Mose Putney, is also an investor in TCHO. Shown here with Dorka Keehn, a San Francisco activist, artist and all around fabulous female, and Lindsay Moreman, another fabulous female, lifelong friend since high school, and designer/stylist/artist.

Steve Wilson on the left, Alice Grey Stites, director of the Art without Walls project and wife of my childhood tennis partner (!), Laura Lee Brown, and Tiffany Shlain (with hat), San Francisco filmmaker, new mom and IT girl, who opened the Idea Festival with a screening of her work in progress, Connected: A stream-of-consciousness ride through the interconnectedness of humankind.

We all went back to our beds that night to find 2 fabulous pieces of TCHO chocolate on our pillows. What a perfect match, 21C + TCHO!

The next morning, Daan Roosegaarde gave a fabulous talk about his beautiful and engaging interactive work and had a wonderful installation on Main Street.

On Saturday, I rode out to Woodland Farm, where Steve and Laura Lee go to decompress, ride horses, raise bison and grow the vegetables they serve at Proof on Main. I got friendly with one of their charges:

Private chef Schoen, who was just at the TCHO factory in San Francisco earlier in the week, got more than friendly with another bison and served it to us for lunch with a fabulous red wine and pepper sauce, beans from the garden, freshly picked salad, and of course an apple tart with TCHOPro for dessert! Turns out bison is the leanest red meat there is, with no more cholesterol than chicken. And it’s mighty tasty, too…

My friends in Kentucky, and especially at 21C are way into good food, slow food, locally grown, seasonal produce, etc. Here’s their prize winning country ham.

And here are some shots of the art and atmosphere at the hotel. Even though my parents still live in town, 21C is TCHO’s home in Louisville!


Got a migrane?? Try a TCHO-A-Day!!

Cocoa Enriched Diets May Be Beneficial In Treatment Of Migraine

For several years, researchers have been interested in the value ofTheobroma cacao in treating a variety of disorders. A new study presented at the International Headache Society’s 14th International Headache Congress hosted by the American Headache Society (AHS) in Philadelphia, has provided the first evidence for the value of cocoa as a dietary supplement in repressing inflammatory responses within the trigeminal ganglia which are thought to play a role inmigraine.

“It appears that a cocoa-enriched diet in rats can repress the proteins that are associated with the promotion and maintenance of inflammatory responses such as migraine,” said Paul L. Durham, PhD of Missouri State University’s Center for Biomedical & Life Sciences, an author of the study.

“Although this is an early animal study, it shows promise in helping researchers understand more about how migraine can be prevented and treated,” said Michael Moskowitz, MD, President of the International Headache Society. “So much more research is needed in understanding this devastating disease that robs millions of Americans of a productive quality of life.” Some 36 million Americans suffer with migraine, more than either diabetes or asthma.

More than 400 scientific papers and posters are to be presented during the IHC/AHS meeting which is expected to draw some 1,200 migraine specialists and scientists from around the globe. The meeting is the world’s largest professional conference on migraine and headache-related diseases.

International Headache Society

I’m just sayin…




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