Led by our GPS, we turn down a street that we believe had no business making chocolate. This industrial area of Somerville, with active construction zones, doesn’t match the idea in my head of what a chocolate factory should look like. But, we continue through our trepidation.
The GPS exclaims that we’ve found our destination, but we don’t see it. Instead, I notice a sign at the entrance to a parking lot – “Parking for Taza Visitors” – with an arrow directing us. Our next mission is to find the factory.
The building looks rather unassuming. Little did we know, the world headquarters of Taza Chocolate shares a roof with a number of businesses and some converted industrial condo units.
We open the front door to the building and, immediately, we’re bathed in the sweet scent of chocolate. We knew we had found the right place!
Floating in on the wafts of chocolate in the air, we enter the gift shop entrance. We check in for our tour at the counter and, since we’re a few minutes early, we’re invited to browse the shop and taste a bunch of their samples.
Taza makes chocolate like they do in Mexico. In fact, that’s where the founder learned the recipes. It’s stone ground, rustic and, thankfully, vegan (we cheered when the tour guide mentioned this). Their slogan says, “Chocolate with True Grit” and it couldn’t be more true.
There’s a distinct texture to traditional Mexican chocolate, and if you’ve never had it before, we recommend that you add it your list of things to try. Even though we’ve had the Abuelita brand chocolate before, and we knew not to expect the smoothness of Hershey or Lindt, the flavors of Taza blew us away.
My favorite of the gift shop samples was the vanilla, whereas Ligeia enjoyed the guajillo chile the best. She handled the tiny square of 95% dark chocolate with ease, but its bitterness was far too much for my taste buds. There were other flavors available for tasting, but the rest of the group had checked in and our tour was about to start.
Our guide for the hour was Krysia, who exuded her passion for chocolate, despite it being the last tour of the day. She sent round after round of chocolate samples to our group, teaching us amazing stuff while we chomped down on deliciousness.
Through large flashcards, we learn of the history of the company and how the founders got the idea for the business. We learn the difference between fair trade and the direct trade practices Taza engages in, which ensures all money goes to the cacao farmers, as opposed to splitting a commission to an agency. But most importantly, we learn how Taza makes its unique chocolate.
We had no idea that the cacao fruit grows in a large pod, or that it was even a fruit to begin with! The cacao beans are covered in a white, flesh that Krysia explained “tastes like a mix between white peach and white grape, with a hint of citrus.” We’re now on a mission to find cacao fruit and taste it for ourselves!
Krysia quizzed us at each step of the tour, as she described the entire process of their chocolate making. From the week-long fermentation step of the cacao fruit to the roasting of the beans, and from the specific Oaxacan-style stone grinder used to produce the pure chocolate to the small packaging department that wraps all their delicious goods.
Taza, which gets its name from the Spanish for “cup”, honors the traditional way that chocolate is enjoyed in Mexico. Today, they source their cacao beans from all over Latin America, and each bean apparently has its own unique flavor, based on the conditions where the cacao is grown and fermented.
This is one of the best tours we’ve ever taken. Not only did we learn a ton, but we got to binge on free chocolate. The next time you find yourself in the Boston area, don’t pass up the chance to head to nearby Somerville and take a tour at the Taza Chocolate factory. The adult fare of $6 won’t break the bank, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to eat that amount in samples anyway.
If you’re not anywhere near Boston, don’t worry. Taza Chocolate is available worldwide through many health and organic supermarkets (Whole Foods carries it!), so you should be able to find it near you.