We did an in-house blind Chocolate Tasting yesterday here at our office. TeamBuilding-Unlimited/Murder on the Menu does Chocolate Tastings with our corporate clients, and we're always looking for new chocolate and different chocolate for each tasting event. They're always blind, and we don't reveal the brands or percents until the end. One of my favorites at yesterday's Tasting turned out to be a 70% Taza Bar. It has such a distinctive texture--stone-ground.
I've mentioned Taza before when I was doing my Earth Day chocolate round-ups, but there's more to tell. Located in Somerville, MA, they do not grow cacao there. But you knew that! The beans come from small farming cooperatives in Central and South America. Fair trade. Ethically traded.
The beans are lightly roasted. Then winnowed. To get the stone grind, Taza uses two Molinos-traditional Mexican stone grinding mills to transform cacao nibs into chocolate liquor. By minimally processing the cacao with stone mills, they maintain the flavor. The stone ground process continues in their two stone roll refiners that reduce the particle size of the sugar they mix into the chocolate to transform it into an eating chocolate. Then they deposit the chocolate into moulds, cool, and wrap by hand.
What's missing? No conching. They skip this step in order to preserve the texture of their chocolate and "to hold in as many natural flavors of the beans as possible." They do an excellent job of it.
Taza cacao comes from a small cooperative in the Dominican Republic with a tree stock called La Red Guacanejo. Their sugar is sourced from an innovative company in Brazil called the Green Cane Project, and they use true cinnamon (not cascia) and whole vanilla pods, both organically grown, from a tiny plantation in Costa Rica called Villa Vanilla.
As I've mentioned before, the direct relationship with their growers brings high quality ingredients while ensuring fair wages and work practices.
I love Taza Chocolate, and I agree that it must be the imperfect surface of a granite millstone, unrefined cacao particles and sugar granules that remain in the finished chocolate that give it it's explosive flavor!
Next up, I'll try the 80% bar--and I haven't had the Mexican chocolate yet! I'm stashing a bar of the 70% in my desk now.