Monday, August 29, 2011

Alternate Plant Tour

On Friday, I went on the factory tour at Taza Chocolate ( in Somerville, MA.  I got tickets for their tour through the MIT Activities Committee (  The MIT Activities Committee sells tickets to various local events, museums, etc. at a discount to the MIT community.  Taza is a walk from the Central Square T stop and was started by some people who worked at Zipcar actually.

Taza is one of 20 bean to bar chocolate factories in the US.  All of their chocolate is dark chocolate.  There is no dairy at the facility and their bars are primarily cocoa beans and cane sugar.  Taza is fair trade, organic, kosher, vegan, etc..  The only issue is for people with nut allergies since they roast the nuts they use in some of their chocolate in the same roaster that they roast their cocoa beans in.

We got to see the beans themselves and machines that roasted the beans and separated from their shells.  They showed us the stone grinding machines that they use to grind the chocolate and all the piping that the liquified chocolate gets moved around in (the room is 85 degrees F!).  At the end, we saw employees putting chocolate into molds and then moving it into a room for cooling (50 degrees F).

The stone grinding methods came from Mexico and the chocolate recipe is traditional, too.  Most of their chocolate is disks and has a gritty texture from the minimal stone grinding, but the chocolate in the bars is ground further and is a little smoother.  They add cocoa butter to those bars.

The red machine in the background is the bean and nut roaster.  The one in the front is the shell separator.  What looks like dirt on the floor is actually cocoa powder, shell and nib bits.

Granite grinding wheels, about 20 pounds each are used to grind the chocolate
An employee adds a giant yellow chunk of cocoa butter to the big white vat in the background while watching liquid ground chocolate flow from the plumbing in the foreground
Filling the molds before they are passed into the cool room.
The majority of their chocolates are hand wrapped, though they recently got a machine to help them wrap some of the round ones.
Shelved boxes of their Mexican style round disks
Taza states that their chocolate has a shelf life of a year and that their busy season is from fall until about Valentine's Day.  They sell individual bars, but also sell chocolate in bulk to bakeries and restaurants.  During the tour there were all kinds of samples along the way, which made things even more enjoyable.  They have a few kinds of the smoother bar chocolate and then about 11 different flavors of the coarser Mexican disks, such as orange, coffee, salted almond, vanilla, salt and pepper, yerba mate and some ones with chili in them and others I can't even remember.  All in all the tour took about an hour and it was a fun short excursion for break.  I'd recommend a visit if you're in the area.

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