Taza Chocolate Factory Tour
I love going on food tours, whether it is a city’s walking food tour like I did in Portland, Oregon, or checking out behind-the-scenes food production like I got to do at POM Wonderful in California. But traveling across the country isn’t a requirement for getting a factory food tour, especially when there is an amazing tour right in my backyard. The Taza chocolate factory is right in Somerville, MA, and a recent Groupon deal finally prompted me to check it out.
I’m relatively new to Taza chocolate – I first tried it about a year ago and was instantly smitten by the gritty, ultra dark chocolate. I prefer dark over milk chocolate, and the darker the better. Since Taza is Mexican chocolate, it has a texture and richness unlike anything you’d ever get from Hershey’s or Mars.
There were about 15 of us on the tour, which was a little over an hour long. The Taza factory isn’t big, but the company is managing to sell their chocolate all over the US and in some parts of Europe!
I loved learning about the origination of this relatively new company:
In 2005, Taza cofounder Alex Whitmore traveled to Oaxaca to steep himself in the history and culture of Mexico. There, he learned about the pre-Columbian ritual of “xocolātl” in Latin America, and the customs that surrounded the transformation of cacao into a drink. Having grown up eating European-style chocolate candy, Alex was surprised and inspired by the simplicity of the Oaxacan treatment of chocolate. He was compelled by the minimal processing and traditional method of stone grinding the beans… so much so that he was moved to start a business dedicated to crafting artisan, Mexican-style chocolate in the United States.
Apparently Alex had the brainchild for Taza while sipping some Mexican hot chocolate and it grew from there! I got a feeling that everyone who works there absolutely loves it, and loves chocolate. They have a personal relationship with their farmers who grow the cacao beans in the Dominican Republic and make sure they’re working in safe farming practices.
Learning about the step by step processes of chocolate making (or any food making for that matter) gives you such a greater appreciation for the food and all the hands that go into making it around the world. Taza has only 40-something employees in it’s Somerville factory, and they even wrap each bar by hand. I love that personal touch!
There were other neat factoids about Taza, like the fact that if you place an online order and live nearby, you can receive your chocolate shipment by bike delivery. The cacao bean shells aren’t just tossed in the trash. They’re repurposed as mulch and donated to Groundwork Somerville and Eva Sommaripa of Eva’s Organic Garden.
Taza is a company with a conscious, focusing on organic ingredients, direct trade with farmers, and sustainability. Knowing all the goodness that goes into each bean and bar, I’m more than happy to fork over $4.50 for a bar.
Also? The Taza tour doesn’t skimp on samples. As soon as you enter the store, you can taste as many pieces of chocolate in all of their different flavors as you like. My favorites are the spicy chili and the salt and pepper chocolate. They even have an 87% cacao bar, which you’d think would be too bitter to enjoy, but it’s so dark it almost has a fruity flavor and loads of health benefits.
I feel like I discovered a hidden gem in Boston, when really, I’m probably just late to the game in realizing the amazingness of this local chocolate production. I absolutely will be bringing back friends and out of town guests to go on this tour. And fortunately for me, right around the corner is the Clover Food Lab restaurant which I was dying to try, and a pop-up-shop for Grillo’s pickles. Clover has vegetarian food trucks all over the city but I had never been to one, so I was happy I could go into their new-ish permanent restaurant in Somerville. I grabbed a chickpea fritter sandwich (better than falafel!) and BBQ seitan sandwich to go for dinner with Funk, along with a container of spicy Grillo’s pickles, which are amazing. I never would have through to pair spicy with sour!
Needless to say, my belly was very happy after my Somerville food tour on Saturday.