September 28, 2011


A few weekends ago, my mom and I took a tour of the TCHO factory in San Francisco. Google stocks TCHO chocolates in our Mountain View mini-kitchens, so I'd tried the chocolate before, but didn't know much about the brand.

The tour starts with some basics in chocolate production and background of their company, which they describe as "Silicon Valley meets San Francisco foodie." Then they go on about their altruistic farming practices, obsession for detail, flavor chart, beta offerings, and desire to foster an experience... the cynic in me found this all a bit contrived, but maybe I just was getting impatient for some samples.

After the presentation, we did a short stroll up and down the plant through a sweet fog of cocoa powder; why isn't there an air freshener available in cocoa scent? We saw some women wrapping and boxing up the chocolates (queue Lucy and the Chocolate Factory flashback) and then went off to taste (sorry, experience) each of their four offerings. I can't really use the term flavor because they don't add any flavorings to their chocolates and name each type according to the natural flavor of the cocoa bean. Just like a Macintosh tastes different than a Granny Smith, or a Chardonnay tastes different than a Merlot, no two cocoa beans taste alike. And it's true that their chocolates did taste differently when I took the time to let it melt on my tongue and let my mind wander down taste description lane, but the differences are very subtle and this may have a lot to do with their variation in cocoa proportion across the types. The citrus and fruity had distinct tastes (raisin and pineapple were fruits I likened them too), but the chocolatey tasted chocolatey and the nutty tasted, well, chocolately too.

The tour lasts about an hour, is free, and most importantly, involves free chocolate! Plus, it's located right on the Embarcadero, so it's an excuse to go to San Francisco and stroll around the city afterwards.

For what it's worth, I preferred the free Sharffen Berger tour in Berkeley to this one, but unfortunately, looks like they're no longer giving tours of that plant since Hershey bought them out. Bummer.

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