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Next-gen chocolate makers


Serious chocolate lovers may be excused for knowing little about the manufacture of their favourite food, engrossed as they typically are in its consumption. But a new San Francisco start-up has just become one of only a few major chocolate manufacturers in the United States, and it’s taking a high-tech approach to the confection of this ages-old delight. Whereas many companies that work with chocolate today simply re-melt the heavenly stuff, TCHO has built a factory capable of producing 4,000 metric tons of its own chocolate per year. The employee-owned firm was founded by Wired co-founder Louis Rossetto and legendary chocolatier Timothy Childs, and it’s rethinking the way chocolate is made. In its factory, TCHO has recycled and refurbished legacy chocolate equipment with the latest process control, information and communications systems. The company’s “obsessively good” dark chocolate is created in limited run, “beta editions” that are available only online and at its factory store. Continuous flavour development and customer feedback mean that varieties are constantly evolving, with new versions emerging as often as every 36 hours. TCHO also aims to change the way people describe chocolate, and has created a new taxonomy based on common-sense terms like “nutty,” “fruity” and “chocolatey” to help people find the types they like best. Its products are named accordingly, such as the recent Beta C Ghana 0.2x release, for example, in which the “C” stands for chocolatey (and status skills go to consumers who learn to interpret the rest!). Finally, TCHO embraces a social mission that goes beyond Fair Trade to help farmers by transferring knowledge of how to grow and ferment better beans, allowing them to escape commodity production and become premium producers. TCHO’s 50g chocolate bars, wrapped in plain-brown paper, are priced at USD 4 each. We’ve already covered the rise of chocolate into a snobmoddity, with premium vendors such as UK-based Sir Hans Sloane and experience-rich chocolate “bars” and lounges popping up around the world. Right on cue, TCHO is also planning a tasting room “as gracious as a European Grand Cafe and a remarkable space in which to experience TCHO’s chocolates and drinks.” Let’s hope this trend never fades! Spotted by: Claudia Kishler Rice



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