Local chocolate in the United States is tricky. Unless you’re in Hawaii, you need to ship in the cacao beans. And many chocolatiers actually buy already-processed beans and flavor, manipulate, and shape the final chocolate. Since all steps of chocolate-making require skill and practice, even this is no small feat. TCHO bills itself as New American Chocolate. The company works closely with certified fair-trade growers to get good beans and to also create excellent fermentation and drying facilities at the farms, which ensure the best final quality.
Even more impressive, TCHO provides “flavor labs,” where the growers can make basic chocolate. This accomplishes two things. First, the farmers get to taste chocolate made with their beans, which is a new experience for most of them. Second, it gives the farmers and TCHO a shared vocabulary for talking chocolate, cocoa, and cacao beans. Visitors to the store get a similar experience, with chocolates presented based on their flavor profiles, not just the cocoa percentages we’ve all gotten used to. Fruity, nutty, floral, earthy, citrus: figure out your chocolate type. Then stock up and maybe take one of the free tours offered twice daily at the TCHO factory to see how they make it so tasty.