Tchou chocolate bar

One of CoffeeCon’s most exciting exhibitions and classes isn’t about coffee. It’s about chocolate and here’s why I’m excited. Like most everyone else, I’ve enjoyed chocolate, like coffee in its range of tastes, source, and even some of the processes required to make the end product. I’ve been waiting for chocolate to be treated and sold like coffee.

On a recent visit to the Bay area I happened to visit TCHO, if memory serves Brian Keeffe at Four Barrel recommended I take Patricia there or her afternoon chocolate break. All I can say is it was instantly our kind of place. We were a little overwhelmed. The aromas, the tastes. Just like coffee, an entire flavor wheel of tastes, which the TCHO folks demonstrate in their store. After about an hour spent sampling and a tiny bag of goodies we purchased, we left. I was simply amazed at their approach to chocolate. It was clearly a new way seeing, thinking and of course tasting chocolate.

With TCHO (which I mistakenly thought was pronounced as if it rhymed with “wow” but it really rhymes with “ah”) chocolate finally gets its specialty treatment. As with most literate folks, I freely admit that I taste more of products that get written about. I enjoy reading, tasting, tasting some more and reading. TCHO takes a literate approach. But, they’ve done more than just write about it.

They specially source cacao (the green beans of chocolate) to make their chocolate from scratch, seeking specific nutty and fruity flavors, with all the associated micro-tastes and aromas. What happens from there is an entire obsessive and full blown specialty approach throughout. Their cacao is from Ghana, Peru, Madagascar, Ecuador and other places. They freely acknowledge that the flavors vary widely within these regions, so they simply get the best from many, and produce both blended and single origin products.  They’re taken every succeeding step and combined tradition with a “why not?” technological though process. I’m sure you’re getting why all this would so fascinate me!

Lifelong chocolatier Lous Roeetto and Nasa contractor Timothy Childs, Tchou's founders and obsessive co-dependents. .

Lifelong chocolatier Lous Roeetto and Nasa contractor Timothy Childs, Tcho’s founders and obsessive co-dependents. .

Then they take why I can only describe as a California culinary approach that harkens to the early days of Napa Valley wines, not to mention that other specialty beverage which owes so much to California, which involves working with their sources to innovate and improve, (dare I say reinvent?) product quality. At this point it sounded so much like coffee, I started energetically pacing around at TCHO’s location asking to find someone to pitch their coming to CoffeeCon. The more reasoned a serene approach Patricia made resonated with TCHO and they enthusiastically agreed to come to CoffeeCon to help us change the world.

Speaking of that

Finally, I read TCHO’s mission statement which was as follows:

  1. Be obsessive about: Experience that delights, Legendary service to our communities, Innovation, Crisp execution and relentless improvement.
  2. Be lean and mean, be real,
  3. Make a better world.

By now it should be obvious why they’d be invited to CoffeeCon!