When you live outside the tropics, it's sort of hard to buy "local chocolate." You can buy from a local chocolatier, which is somebody who buys chocolate from someplace else and melts, molds, rolls, carves and otherwise remakes it into delicious confections. You can also buy chocolate from a local chocolate maker, somebody who imports cocoa beans and turns them into what we know as chocolate. Somerville's Taza Chocolate is in the latter category, and this weekend, they opened their doors for an open house and tour.
Health codes prevented the hundreds of tour-goers from entering most of the factory, but we did get a good look at the roaster and winnower with co-founder Larry. The aroma was intoxicating.
Looking vaguely Steve Jobslike, Larry held forth passionately about Taza's commitment to their cocoa cooperative in the Dominican Republic, local partnerships in Somerville (they buy letterpress labels from nearby Albertine Press!), and creating an organic product using ancient Mexican stone mills. The company is just three years old, but the major equipment was purchased used and is over 30 years old.
Is that a cork substituting for a button on the winnowing machine? No matter. One business-minded guest asked where the bottleneck was in the process, and it turns out that the answer to that is wrapping and packaging, and Taza plans to expand into adjacent space in the building to increase capacity.
Indulging my usual passion for salty chocolate, I picked up a $4 round of Taza's Stone Ground Organic Chocolate Mexicano in the salted almond variety. The factory might not open to the public again for a while, but run don't walk to Taza's website or your local supplier.