A tour into a chocolate factory

On Thursday, April 7th, I had a chance to take part in an annual field trip organized by Clark Sustainability Collaborative Club. It was amazing. We went to the TAZA chocolate factory in Somerville to take a tour around a factory that makes awesome organic chocolate. For those of you who don’t know what this means, organic chocolate is chocolate that has ingredients that were farmed sustainably. The farmers replace pesticides, fertilizers, and other harmful chemicals with organic materials for composting and pesticides-making. Alex Whitmore, the founder of the place, pays attention to maintaining a direct relationship with the cacaos farmers to ensure both the quality of the cacao and the rights of the farmers who grow it. TAZA pays a premium above the Fair Trade price for their cacao.

The factory is medium-sized, but it is the only place that produces any TAZA brand chocolate in the world. An employee at the factory led our group inside the factory and guided us through a few sections of the building. The tour guide told us that the cacao beans were purchased from the Dominican Republic, Belize, Guatemala, Bolivia, and Haiti. The cacao grows from trees, and during the harvest, farmers will cut the pods from the tree. Then, the cultivator cracks the pods to get the beans and fruits, which are then fermented in wooden boxes. The beans are dried after fermentation, and once dry, the cacao is ready to be shipped to TAZA for chocolate making.

Cocoa-pod-cross-section
Cacao beans in the pods (Source)

We were guided to the roasting and winnowing room where the cocoa is crushed and separated into two parts: shells and nibs—chocolate in its purest form.

cocoabeans
From left to right: Cocoa beans, shells, nibs (Photo provided by the author)

During the tour, our group was offered to try many chocolate flavors, and they were so tasty. They all have good combinations of flavors you can imagine of such as raspberry, salted almond, and Chipotle Chili.

chocolate.jpg
(Photo provided by the author)

chocolate2
(Photo provided by the author)

After the tour, I felt like I learned a lot about how a chocolate bar is produced. When the factory received the cacao beans, the employees will roast it, and then winnow it to separate the shell and the nib. The special procedure in chocolate making at Taza is the grinding machine using the handcrafted stone, which explains where the name “Stone Ground Chocolate” comes from. After the first grind, the Cocoa Liquor is transferred to the mixing tank where the raw cane sugar is added. Depending on whether the final product is a bar or a disc, the next steps are different. The bars are smoother so they go to the role refiners to reduce the particle size of the mass, while the discs go to a second grind. To create the shiny appearance, the right melting point, and a crispy snap of the crystal chocolate, Taza applies their unique techniques in tempering. Subsequently, the tempered chocolate is poured into the moulds and is ready for packing.

What I experienced is a general idea about chocolate making process, but there is definitely a lot more to say if we want to study the methods in detail. However, I hope that you will learn something about organic chocolate, and how it is made after reading this post. The taste of their cacao is delicious, so if you are curious, definitely pay a visit to Taza or sign up for this trip next year!

-Anh

(Cover image source)

 

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