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TCHO New American Chocolate
NEW AMERICAN CHOCOLATE

FAQ

 

General

What is TCHO?

A new way to think about chocolate, based on the pure flavors of cacao.

What does TCHO stand for?

Obsessively good chocolate, innovation in every aspect of our business, and making a better world.

How do you pronounce TCHO?
TCHO is pronounced “choh!” (the “t” is silent).
Where did the name TCHO come from?
The name TCHO is a phonetic spelling for the first syllable of chocolate.
What does it mean that TCHO is where “Silicon Valley start-up meets San Francisco food culture”?
There are many ways in which TCHO is where Silicon Valley start-up meets San Francisco food culture. To us, that means TCHO marries the relentless pursuit of innovation to the obsession with flavor and quality which are hallmarks of our region.
What does “New American Chocolate” mean?
New American Chocolate means bringing new thinking to an ancient food to create an exquisitely modern, and uniquely American experience, in much the way that the upstart Napa Valley changed people’s perception of American wine.
What is the difference between a Chocolatier vs Chocolate Maker?
TCHO is a chocolate maker, one of only about a dozen in the US with the scale to serve both consumers and commercial customers. We make our chocolate from scratch—sourcing our own cacao beans directly from growers, and then controlling every step of the process, from pod to palate. Chocolatiers purchase bulk chocolate from manufacturers (like TCHO) and artfully craft fine creations like truffles.
Are you local?
TCHO is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our new production facility and factory store in West Berkeley’s Marchant Building are scheduled to open to the public in Mid-April 2014.
Where can I buy TCHO?
In addition to our Westfield San Francisco Centre kiosk and our website, we can be found nationwide at Whole Foods, The Fresh Market, and Wegmans, as well as numerous specialty food stores across the country.
How do you make your chocolate?
We source our own cacao beans directly from farmers and control every step of the process from fermentation and roasting through conching, molding, and packaging. Our sourcing program is called TCHOSource™.
What is your “Beta” program?
Just like with software development, we initially launch our bars in a Beta tasting program that is open to the public. We continually seek feedback from our Beta Tasters to improve our formulations. Thousands of people have contributed valuable feedback to help us arrive at our final formulations. Our first formulations went through over a thousand iterations based on this feedback, before finally being released as 1.0.
What is the Flavor Wheel all about?
TCHO’s flavor wheel represents the inherent flavors found in the cacao bean. We source our beans and tune them in processing so that our chocolates specifically express the flavors in our Flavor Wheel. Learn more about our Flavor Focus here.
Are there any nuts in “Nutty,” or fruit in “Fruity?”
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.
Why do you focus on flavor instead of “percentage cacao” or “origin?”
Both “percentage cacao” and “origin” can be misleading, if not meaningless, if you are looking to describe what chocolate tastes like. “Percentage cacao” refers to both cacao solids and cocoa butter, without indicating the proportion of either. A 70 percent cacao could have a majority of solids, or cocoa butter, with obviously different taste results since flavor is a result of the solids.

As to origin, cacao grown from plants on the same farm can vary wildly in flavor, for a variety of reasons, including harvest, genetics, or fermentation. Cacao in a growing region can be even more variable. A cacao from Madagascar, for example, may be fruity. Or, in the case of TCHO’s chocolate from Madagascar, citrusy, or “bright.” Instead, TCHO decided to simplify the process of selecting your next chocolate by focusing on the inherent flavor of the beans.

What does it mean that TCHO is “pod to palate?”
TCHO makes its chocolate from cacao beans. We control every step of the chocolate-making from farm fermentation to consumer consumption. TCHOSource™, our unique sourcing program, is the foundation for this process.
Are your products Organic?
Many of our products are Organic Certified:
  • PureNotes™ “Bright”
  • PureNotes™ “Nutty”
  • PureNotes™ “Fruity”
  • SeriousMilk™ “Classic”
  • SeriousMilk™ “Cacao”
  • 99% Limited Edition
  • 39% Baking Discs
  • 66% Baking Discs
  • 99% Baking Discs
  • 66% TCHOPro

All of our products are sourced with our TCHOSource™ program.

Are your products Fair Trade?
Many of our products are Fair Trade, which means the cacao beans and the cocoa butter are from certified Fair Trade cocoa cooperatives:
  • PureNotes™ “Nutty”
  • PureNotes™ “Fruity”
  • SeriousMilk™ “Classic”
  • SeriousMilk™ “Cacao”
  • 99% Limited Edition
  • 39% Baking Discs
  • 66% Baking Discs
  • 99% Baking Discs
  • 66% TCHOPro

All of our products are sourced with our TCHOSource™ program.

What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade is a social movement to organize farmers into co-ops with the goal of improving farmer lives. While we support increasing farmer income, co-ops are only one of the ways to do that. And some farms will simply never be Fair Trade — for example, larger plantations (like where we obtain our Madagascar “Bright” cacao).
Why isn’t “Chocolatey” Organic or Fair Trade?
Ghana has a government-controlled cacao sector that has not supported certifications until fairly recently. One exception is Kuapa Kokoo, the only fair trade cacao cooperative in Ghana. However, we have not found samples with the quality we require yet, and they don’t produce organic cacao. Very recently, a very small organic cacao program has emerged in Ghana, and we are in direct contact with them (getting samples). So, we are currently testing organic beans from Ghana, for possible use in our “Chocolatey” in the future.
What do you mean your products are “beyond fair trade”?
For most companies, Fair Trade is essentially a royalty program, where they pay fair trade organizations for the use of the Fair Trade logo, with the royalty payment resulting in higher income for co-op farmers in the program. While TCHO supports fair trade, TCHOSource is based on the belief that in the 21st century, individuals and companies have the power and responsibility to act directly to make a better world.
TCHOSource™ is based on direct investments and direct involvement in improving farmer infrastructure through in-field remote monitoring, sensory analysis training, and technology transfer. We also install in-country Flavor Labs where producers taste chocolate they make from their own beans—an almost unheard of practice, until now. Such investments help farmers move out of commodity production to become premium flavor bean producers. Higher quality cacao allows farmers to earn better incomes and improve their living standards. Learn more about TCHOSource™.
TCHO firmly believes that the best, longest lasting change rests on the win-win of mutual self-interest—we get exceptional beans and the farmer gets better prices in the marketplace.
Is your chocolate single origin?
Our four PureNotes™ dark bars are single origin: “Chocolatey” is from Ghana; “Bright” is from Madagascar; “Fruity” is from Peru; “Nutty” is from Ecuador. Our SeriousMilk™ “Classic” and “Cacao”, Baking Discs and TCHOPro (professional chocolate for the food service community) are blends.
What percentage of cacao is TCHO chocolate?
Our dark bars (PureNotes™) are between 65% and 70% Cacao. Our SeriousMilk™ “Classic” milk chocolate is 39% cacao. SeriousMilk™ “Cacao” milk chocolate is 53% cacao content.
Where do your beans come from?
PureNotes™ “Chocolatey” is from Ghana, “Bright” is from Madagascar, “Fruity” is from Peru, and “Nutty” is from Ecuador. SeriousMilk™ “Classic” and “Cacao” are a blend of beans from Peru and Ecuador.
Are your professional blends single origin?
Our TCHOPro line offers blends so they are more consistent for commercial/professional use. We offer 60.5% and 68% conventional blends and a 66% certified Organic Fair Trade blend. Learn more about TCHOPro here.
Does TCHO make Milk chocolate?
Yes. We currently make two SeriousMilk™ milk chocolates, “Classic” and “Cacao”.
What is the cloudy surface you sometimes see on chocolate bars?
This is “bloom”. Bloom occurs if the chocolate is heated enough to melt some of the cocoa butter in the chocolate. It generally does not affect the flavor of the chocolate, although it can make the chocolate feel dry/chalky.
Below 50% humidity and between 65F – 68F. We do not recommend storing TCHO in your refrigerator.
What is TCHOSource?
TCHOSource™ is the name of TCHO’s program to obtain the best beans in the world while enabling the producers of those beans to earn a better living. We do this by embracing as valued partners the farmers who grow our cacao—the way Napa Valley winemakers work closely with partner growers to foster best practices, and then buy their premium grapes at premium prices.
What is your relationship to the farmers who grow your cacao?
Great chocolate begins with great beans. And a modern company needs to be an agent of positive social change. TCHOSource™ is our response to both challenges. TCHOSource™ intelligently blends modern technology and field practice to help raise farmer income. We make direct farmer investments to improve fermentation and drying (literally the first steps in making chocolate) by:
  1. Redesigning fermenting processes
  2. Installing weather stations and data loggers
  3. Transferring Flavor Labs™, to enable growers to make and taste chocolate for the first time
  4. Providing sensory acuity training to enable understanding and communication of flavor profiles.TCHO firmly believes that the best, longest lasting change rests on the win-win of mutual self-interest—we get exceptional beans and the farmer gets better prices in the marketplace. Learn more about TCHOSource™.
TCHOSource™ is built on mutual self-interest: our need to secure long term sources of great cacao; and the growers’ need to raise their incomes.
What are TCHO Flavor Labs?
TCHOSource™ partners with leading research organizations in cacao producing countries to deploy “Flavor Labs,” allowing farmers to make small batches of chocolate with their own cacao beans to better understand the core principle of TCHO chocolate: flavor. TCHOSource has installed several Flavor Labs in cocoa producing countries.
Is your chocolate vegan?
All of TCHO’s dark chocolates are Vegan. There are no animal products in our dark chocolate. Our milk chocolates contain dairy.
Is your chocolate Gluten free?
Yes.
Is your chocolate kosher?
Yes. Our chocolate has been certified by Earth Kosher. Some bars with nuts or other tasty inclusions are not certified Kosher – look for the Kosher  badge on each product page.
I’m allergic to nuts, can I eat Nutty?
There are no nuts in Nutty. Nutty refers to the flavor of the cacao of itself. There’s also no fruit in “Fruity.” We do, however, produce other products in the factory that contain nuts.
What does “possible traces of nuts and milk” mean?
We produce milk chocolate and chocolate with nuts in our facility. It is possible that traces of milk or nuts may be left in our machines, though we do a thorough cleansing between runs. We have a complete allergen mitigation program in place to ensure there is as little cross-contamination of allergenic ingredients as possible. We participate in the voluntary labeling of our products to help you make informed choices about your health.
Who started TCHO?
Co-founded in 2005 by Timothy Childs, a NASA space shuttle contractor, and Karl Bittong, a 40-year chocolate industry veteran. In 2007, Wired co-founder Louis Rossetto joined TCHO as the CEO. In 2009, Jane Metcalfe, Wired’s other co-founder, joined as President.
What makes TCHO different?

TCHO is different in many ways:

1. We have our own factory and make chocolate from scratch; we source our own cacao all over the world. We are one of only a dozen or so chocolate manufacturers in the US with the scale to serve both consumers and commercial customers.
2. As with wine, what you taste in our dark chocolate is precisely, and only, what’s in the bean itself.
3. We are obsessive about quality; we are meticulous in our bean sourcing and scientifically exacting in our formulation development.
4. We have a unique and innovative sourcing program, TCHOSource, that goes beyond Fair Trade — working directly with cacao farmers to improve their crops and livelihood. This program has helped thousands of farmers in Peru, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, and Ghana.
5. We designed a chocolate “Beta” program in which feedback from our customers helps us refine formulations before final launch.
6. Our packaging is modern and iconic; we have won numerous design awards.
7. The TCHO team includes chocolate and food enthusiasts with deep chocolate experience from industry leaders like Ghirardelli, Scharffen Berger, and Lake Champlain Chocolates.
What are TCHO’s values?
1. Be obsessive about: Experience that delights, Legendary service to our communities, Innovation, Crisp execution and relentless improvement.
2. Be lean and mean, be real,
3. Make a better world.
Do you do private label?
Yes. Contact our sales department to learn more.
Do you wholesale?
Yes. Learn more about our wholesale program.
Do you ship internationally?
Not yet. You can contact sales@tcho.com to inquire about retail locations with TCHO in your country.
Is TCHO hiring?
Check our Careers page.
Do you have your own store?
You can find TCHO at our kiosk in the Westfield San Francisco Centre. Our new production facility in West Berkeley’s Marchant Building are scheduled to open to the public in Summer 2014.
Who designed your packaging?
Susanna Dulkinys, of EdenSpiekermann, designed TCHO’s packaging, as well as all aspects of TCHO’s visual identity, except for the logo itself, which was designed by Erik Spiekerman. Susanna and Erik Spiekermann have been intimately involved in the project since February 2006. They believe so strongly in TCHO they are also investors. We have won several international design awards for our packaging, including a gold medal from the European Design Awards and from the Academy of Chocolate.
What is the story of 2.0?
We changed the designation of our “Fruity” and “Nutty” to 2.0 because we felt their improvement over the first generation was major.
“Fruity 2.0″ is the first TCHOSource success story. In 2008, as part of our inaugural TCHOSource project, we installed solar-powered data sensory arrays at our partner co-op in Peru to help them monitor their cacao fermentation—literally the first step in making chocolate. We also shared with them techniques to improve their fermentation, and hence the flavor of their beans. And we installed Flavor Labs (the same equipment we use in San Francisco to formulate our chocolate) so that they could finally close the feedback loop on their efforts (unbelievably, most farmers have never tasted chocolate made from their labors).
After the harvest, we received samples of their first TCHOSource cacao beans – and the flavor was simply amazing! Indeed, quality had improved so much that we decided to reformulate our “Fruity” bar using their new cacao – and rename it “2.0” in recognition of their achievement.
In the case of “Nutty 2.0,” we found a new source of amazing cacao with nutty flavor notes and reformulated the bar.
How do you make your chocolate?
We source our own cacao beans and control the process from fermentation and roasting through conching, molding, and packaging.
Why did co-Founder Timothy Childs leave?
Timothy’s contributions to TCHO are manifold, including our signature flavors, our Flavor Wheel and flavor taxonomy, and our TCHOSource program, developed with Director of Sourcing John Kehoe. For four years, Timothy has worked tirelessly to build TCHO in the face of long odds, and is now ready to take a well-deserved break. He leaves behind a killer team, deep sourcing, and a company committed to excellence and innovation in everything we do. A major shareholder, Timothy remains dedicated to TCHO’s success. All of us here at TCHO thank him for the hard work and soul he invested in our company, congratulate him on his accomplishments, and wish him the very best on his next entrepreneurial adventures.
Does TCHO give factory tours?
We are in the process of relocating our production facility so our factory tours are on temporary hiatus. We anticipate re-opening to the public, in our new building, sometime during the Summer of 2014.
What is the capacity of the factory?
Several thousand tons a year – joining only a dozen other major manufacturers in the US.