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TCHO: nutty, fruity & chocolatey

This year I’ve been watching the progress of TCHO, a new San Franciscan chocolate maker. We’re lucky there are four chocolate producers within the Bay Area: Ghiradelli, Scharffen Berger, Guittard, and now TCHO.

Ghiradelli isn’t bad, but their flavored varieties are somewhat uninspired and feel waxy-plasticy in the mouth. Scharffen Berger’s chocolate I find too burnt and acrid on its own, although it goes well in cooking, and their milk chocolate is deep and creamy (yum). Guittard has been a longtime favorite since childhood, for both eating out of hand and cooking. It’s no wonder that some of the best confectioners, such as Recchiuti, use Guittard in their truffles and treats!

Returning to TCHO, I ordered a sampler of their first three flavors: “Nutty,” “Fruity,” and “Chocolatey.” Wow, was it fun to taste-test these! The experience makes me look forward to their future batches and flavors, not to mention bigger production, at hopefully lower prices without lowering their standards. (It cost $15 for three 2-ounce samples.)

What follows is what I had sent TCHO as feedback, with some minor edits and formatting for this entry. It combines both Simon’s and my observations; we pretty much agreed on what we perceived. Check out other TCHO reviews, or their company blog, for more information.

The texture for all three is pretty much the same. Smooth, no grittiness or annoying waxiness. They are all dark (non-milk) chocolates containing cocoa solids (70%), cane sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin (vegetarian emulsifier), and vanilla bean. The characteristic flavors come from TCHO’s meticulous recipe hacking, with only those ingredients, which is quite impressive considering the wide flavor range we encountered.

Let me know if you have tried TCHO’s theobromic experiments!

“Nutty” beta batch N. Peru 0.12M

Overall: This doesn’t seem to taste nutty at all, at least in the tree nut sense like almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, or pine nuts. Not bad, but somewhat disappointing due to expectations of a roasted tree nut flavor.

Smells sweet chocolatey, with maybe a hint of coconut.

Tastes initially tart-citrusy, then rich overall with a slight yet pleasant bitter edge. Tail end flavor slightly smokey like a dark-roasted coffee.

“Fruity” beta batch Peru 0.12M

Overall: Very interesting with many enjoyable stone fruit and berry dimensions.

Smells sweet fruity.

The initial taste is very bitter, then the fun really starts as the flavor develops into a sudden tartness of prunes, dried apricots, raisins, even some cranberry!

“Chocolatey” beta batch C. Ghana 0.99C

Overall: Comparing this with “Fruity” and “Nutty,” this one is the most intriguing chocolate so far. I’d call it more “spicy” than chocolatey, but it’s still delicious.

Smells like smokey raisins.

Tastes spicy with mild smokiness, while at the same time without bitterness. Aromas in the mouth include anise, cinnamon, molasses and a touch of nutmeg.

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