I recently discovered that Somerville (the town next to where I live) is home to Taza, an amazing chocolate factory. I went there last weekend for a tour of their facility and to sample some of their wonderful, stone ground, organic chocolate.
I’ve had a number of people ask me where I get topics for this blog, because they’re not always (or even seldom) about landscape design. When I started “Open Air Life” it was a way to explore topics related to the values that I hold as a landscape designer; the importance of conservation, the value in exploring the natural world, and the joy of finding inspiration in unexpected places.
|Samples of Taza’s stone ground chocolate in their tasting room
Taza is a unique company in terms of the values they espouse throughout their production process. To start with, they have set up direct trade agreements with their cacao farmers (cacao is the fruit that chocolate comes from). In the traditional cacao supply chain, low prices force farmers to increase productivity. Farmers meet production demands by using chemicals to sustain plant growth in otherwise unsustainable conditions. This has down stream (literally) effects on water and soil quality, erosion, and other environmental factors.
Direct trade relationships allow Taza to offer cacao farmers the economic security they need to conserve natural resource, grow their product in a sustainable way, and protect the rights of their workers.
|Bags of dried cacao waiting to be transformed
|Mem Tea uses the shells of cacao fruit
|Granite disks and signage explaining the process
|A mixing vat, where sugar is added to the ground chocolate nibs
The chocolate is mixed with sugar, and in some cases additional flavors (one of my favorites is their orange cinnamon flavor). It is shaped, wrapped and packaged for shipping to locations around the country.
|Taza’s chocolate sampler featuring their disk chocolates
Fortunately their products are available for sampling at their tasting room. Lots of trays let you taste different flavors, and the staff even offers samples of the most amazing hot chocolate!
|Taza’s tasting room
You can find their chocolate at specialty stores, at Whole Foods, or you can buy it online at http://www.tazachocolate.com/WebStore. The end product is so special, in flavor and texture, but for me it’s the story of the company and their focus on sustainable agriculture, and the preservation of an artisanal process, that is so compelling. With this chocolate, you can really appreciate the care that went in to every step of the process.