TCHO chocolate tour San Francisco
After checking out our registration for the free tour through the chocolate factory, I started tasting chocolate already waiting for the last people to come.
Then Meb, our ginger haired guide, started off with telling us that TCHO means 1st syllable of chocolate. We were seated in a small room and watched the video and photos to find out how it all started here. It was Timothy Childs who worked in NASA until 2003 who founded it working together with Carl who has been in chocolate business for 40 years already.
Meb showed us a cacao fruit that can be yellow, purple, green or orange color and usually contains 20 – 60 beans inside it. She also proved what I knew already. 2,000 BC to 16th century it was the Mayans and the Aztecs using chocolate already but as a thick bitter drink looking like porridge.
The Europeans came in touch with chocolate for the first time in 1519 when Hernan Cortez got to the Tenochtitlan and encountered with Moctezuma II. It was only then in Spain when the sugar was added into chocolate.
The cacao trees grown only in the Equator area and are anywhere between 15 to 60 ft tall.
Chocolate is divided into three groups: criollo (older, sour fruity flavor, hard to grow) and trinitario, both expensive, and forastero (dark flavor, making 80% of chocolate production).
”What people don’t know is that chocolate is fermented fruit” Meb told us. The baba inside a cacao fruit ferments for a week to get just the beans that get darker with the time. Then the beans are roasted and got rid of the dry skin by shaking. We get cacao nibs from inside the beans and then using heat and pressure finally 100% chocolate is made.
TCHO chocolate factory is now controlled by a phone app so can be programmed and done from home. Also new recipes are trying in the kitchen all the time.
Unfortunately we know that cotton, coffee and sometimes even chocolate industry do usually have child slavery but TCHO works directly with the farmers without any children included. TCHO controls the whole process of growing the beans and not just buy them from anyone like many other chocolate factories do.
Slowly, the simple procedures were replaced by faster and more effective ones, such as fermentation now happens in different boxes that look like a staircase opening the boxes one by one to get the same gases all around.
The farmers on the farms where TCHO gets their chocolate do taste chocolate samples so they also can taste the flavor of their work. One of the TCHO farms, the one in Peru, won the best cacao beans contest in the country in 2011.
After the presentation, we left all our accessories in a locker and only could enter the factory itself with close-toed shoes and a hair net. Security is very important in a factory like this and no one wants to eat chocolate with hair or a ring inside, right?
The smell of chocolate was unbelievably real and went through all my veins with the first step into the factory. Meb showed us machines that come from Germany, USA, Switzerland and Italy and explained exactly from which machine it goes where.We saw a blender where chocolate liquor blends with sugar, vanilla, soy lecithin and butter and then it is transformed from liquid to solid chocolate which goes on a plastic sheet to packing area.
”Chocolate sucks up every flavor so the machines have to be cleaned with cocoa butter.” Meb shared a factory secret with us.
From warm production room where the liquid chocolate is made we moved then to colder packing room which avoids solid chocolate melting.
”Our workers packing the chocolate are women as women’s hands are colder than those of men” I learned here from Meb. ”Each packed chocolate goes through a metal detector then just to double check for any jewelry).”
Once the factory walking done, we said goodbye to Meb and Hailey, our tasting guide welcomed us. We started with bitter dark chocolate tasting cacao nibs first that are high in theobromine for energy boost (similar to coffeine).
We tasted 70 % dark chocolate from Ghana – chocolatey flavor foractero chocolate. You break it and let it melt in your mouth to make it less bitter. Than a mix of criollo and forastero chocolate from Peru with fruity flavor – 68% dark chocolate that tastes like raisins in the end. We followed with nutty 65% dark forastero chocolate from Ecuador with the taste of roasted almonds. Then tasted the expensive trinitario 67% citrus flavor chocolate from Madagascar.
After dark chocolate we could aslo taste the sweeter milk chocolate made with milk powder – first 20% chocolate, then classic 39% with caramel flavor and finished it with 60.5% chocolate biscotti.
Telling you I was in 7 Heaven for those few minutes of tasting, you will believe me, right? Chocolate is simply orgasmic!
Unfortunately, the tour came to its end and the only way to keep the TCHO flavor in our mouth was buying some of their chocolate in the store. I sadly said goodbye and with a happy smile left to visit the Aquarium of the Bay.
In my other post check out another 46 thing to do in San Francisco :)