New in Belgium: Taza, stone ground organic chocolate.

At the Taza Chocolate Factory in Somerville, Mass, they craft stone ground chocolate from bean to bar. The story began when Taza founder Alex Whitmore took his first bite of stone ground chocolate while traveling in Oaxaca, Mexico, and came home so inspired that he decided to create a chocolate factory.  Fueled by a passion for Mexican chocolate traditions, he learned to hand-carve the granite millstones that they use today to grind cacao into rustic, organic dark chocolate that bursts with bright, bold flavor and texture.
Through a Direct Trade Certified Cacao program, Taza cultivates face-to-face relationships with farmers. By working together directly, they can source the highest quality cacao possible, while paying our farmers a premium above the Fair Trade cacao price.
Want to learn more about the Taza Chocolate Story?
Read the full Company History here.
Learn how they make stone ground chocolate here.
Read about the Direct Trade Certified Cacao program here.
 Signing of the first Direct Trade Agreement between Taza Chocolate and La Red Guaconejo, May 3,2010
Signing of the first D T Agreement between Taza Chocolate and La Red Guaconejo, May 3,2010

Method and tradition and ethics. And stone grinding, the way its been done in Mexico for generations.
That's what sets apart Taza from other bean-to-bar manufacturers (vs conventional chocolate manufacturers, many of whom are simply 'remelters' - companies that melt down cacao liquor and combine it with fat, usually cocoa butter but not always).  Like other bean-to-bar manufacturers, Taza controls the entire process, from sourcing to roasting to grinding to refining to bar. But when it comes to production, Taza stands out for its adherence to a tradition that few are familiar with but that produces a remarkable bar of chocolate.
Taza is made locally, in Somerville, MA, by hand.  Hand made? Seriously? How much chocolate can you make per batch when you are doing it by hand? Next thing: they use millstones. And they don't conche chocolate. Not at all. How was that even possible?
Taza's return to tradition - specifically Mexican tradition - is refreshing and inspiring.

The Taza logo graces the wall of the roasting room.
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Aaron at the RoasterThe roaster is a spaceship
The beans start in the roaster, a cherry red antique Barth "Sirocco" rotary spherical roaster, which was found and rebuilt in Italy. The roasting times and temperatures are documented on a Roast Profile Log. Taza prefers a slightly less roasted bean than most, as less roasting brings out more of the subtleties and characteristics of their superior quality beans.
Once the beans have been roasted and cooled, they are moved to the winnower, which removes shells and breaks the beans into varying sized nibs.

Once broken, sized, sorted and separated, the roasted nibs are loaded into pails and carted up to the upstairs production room. They are now ready to be made into chocolate.
Nibs are kept in a large covered bucket and moved from the basement to the production room on carts

The nibs are ground by two millstones, which are purchased in Oaxaca City Mexico.
 The Stone for grinding
Once chocolate passes through the first molino, it goes into a holding tank where it is mixed with sugar (the Mexicano are equal parts sugar and nibs) and possibly cocoa butter if Taza is making bars. If it is for a Mexicano round, it is then passed through a second molino and then formed into 1.35 oz disks. If it is a flavored Mexicano bar, the flavor is ground with the beans in Molino 1 - whole vanilla beans or cinnamon or almonds are added to the nibs as they pass through the millstones. Chili, which leaves strong, lingering flavor on the equipment it touches, is added in powder form to the chocolate once it is ground and in the holding tank, to eliminate any possibility of ending up in other products.
Holding Tank

Soy lecithin is never added to the chocolate. There are no added emulsifiers at all in Taza chocolate.

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Taza's chocolate bars are slightly more refined. Instead of running through Molino 2, they run through a refiner, which produces a finer grind than the molino.

Taza currently buys their cocoa butter but are planning to possibly make their own in the near future.
The current (all-stone ground) process for bars is: Roasted Nibs -> Molino 1 -> Holding Tank -> Refiner -> Tempering -> Moulding -> Wrapping

The organic sugar Taza uses is produced by the Green Cane Project in Brazil, one of the largest and most biodiverse and sustainable sugar cane plantations in the world. All of the spent cane is used to fuel the plant and the town nearest the plant. The sugar itself has a lovely golden hue.
The Green Cane Project SugarOrganic Sugar

Once the bars are set, they are hand wrapped twice: the first time they are foil wrapped, the second time they receive an outer wrapping that contains the label.
  Ready to be wrapped

There are numerous bean-to-bar boutique chocolate manufacturers in the US, but none occupy quite the same space as Taza. There is no waste produced by their operation: everything, including cacao chaff and shell is reused or recycled or returned to the earth.
The results - a fruity, brightly acidic bar that is chocolate at its most primal and bold - are a revelation. Relative newcomers like Taza are taking the lead in creating truly original - for some, polarizing - chocolate.
And everyone should take notice.
Yet available in our shop are: 
Taza 60% Stone Ground Chocolate is handcrafted in small batches from single origin Dominican cacao. Our 60% dark chocolate bar explodes with the essence of red berries, caramel, and mocha. A touch of added cocoa butter and a hint of biodynamic vanilla bean rounds out the flavor. Taza 60% Stone Ground Chocolate is the perfect point of departure for exploring our whole family of dark chocolates.
Taza 70% Stone Ground Chocolate is our signature bar, handcrafted in small batches from single origin, sustainably grown Dominican cacao. Our 70% dark chocolate bar is downright intense, with flavors at once winey, bright, complex, and compelling. To bring it all together, we add just a bit of extra cocoa butter and a touch of biodynamic vanilla bean. Taza 70% Stone Ground Chocolate is strong yet balanced, and great for everyday enjoyment.
 Taza 80% Stone Ground Chocolate is the darkest and most intense of our single origin Dominican bars. We start with sustainably grown Dominican cacao, roasting it gently to highlight the complex and subtle flavors of the beans. A trip through our stone mills yields a slightly rustic texture, while a bit of cocoa butter and a touch of biodynamic vanilla bean round out the flavor. Taza 80% Stone Ground Chocolate has notes of tawny port and buckwheat honey, with just a hint of sweetness.

Sources:  ,   
Thanks to
Linsey Herman of Cake and Commerce, and her supply of text and pictures of the Taza facilities.

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