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TCHO History

Who started TCHO? TCHO was co-founded in 2005 by Timothy Childs, a NASA space shuttle contractor, and Karl Bittong, a 40-year chocolate industry veteran. In 2007, Wired magazine co-founder Louis Rossetto joined TCHO as the CEO. In 2009, Jane Metcalfe, Wired’s other co-founder, joined as President.

Where did the name TCHO come from? The name TCHO is a phonetic spelling for the first syllable of chocolate.  Just say “cho!” 

Who designed your packaging? Susanna Dulkinys, of EdenSpiekermann, designed TCHO’s original packaging (Chocolatey, Fruity, Nutty, Bright, Cacao, and Classic). The logo was designed by Erik Spiekerman. More recently, Paul Demyanovich and Ben Cleaver, previously of Blue Marlin, designed for our new line of ingredient bars.

What is the difference between Chocolatier vs. Chocolate Maker? TCHO is a chocolate maker, one of only a small number in the US with the scale to serve both consumers and commercial customers. A chocolate maker makes chocolate from raw materials including cacao beans, cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, cane sugar, vanilla, milk etc. Chocolatiers traditionally purchase chocolate from chocolate makers (like TCHO) and artfully craft fine confections such as truffles and pralines.

What is the TCHO Flavor Wheel all about? TCHO’s flavor wheel is all about celebrating the diversity of flavors found in cocoa beans.  Like wine and coffee, cocoa beans can have amazing diversity and complexity of flavor depending on variation in genetics, post-harvest processing, and terroir.   For example, our “Nutty” chocolate, made from beans from coastal Ecuador, has predominant flavor notes of toasty nuts.  By contrast, our “Fruity” chocolate, made from cocoa grown in Amazonian Peru, naturally tends to have big fruit notes.  We don’t add nuts to our “Nutty” or fruit in our “Fruity” but rather we fine tune their inherent flavors in various parts of the chocolate making process – varietal selection, fermentation, drying, roasting, conching, etc. – so that our chocolates specifically express the flavors in our Flavor Wheel. 

Why do you focus on flavor instead of “cacao percentage” or “origin?” Both cacao percentage and origin are informative, but can be a bit misleading when understanding what a chocolate tastes like.  Cacao percentage is the total percentage (by weight) of cocoa beans (or ingredients derived from cocoa beans) in a chocolate. This cacao percentage can refer to both cocoa solids (the flavorful brown stuff) as well as cocoa butter, without indicating the proportion of either. For example, two 70% chocolate bars could have dramatically different proportions of cocoa solids to cocoa butter, and thus taste completely different. 

Origin labels can also be misleading when understanding a chocolate’s flavor. Various cacao trees grown on a single farm can be completely diverse in flavor. Cacao in a growing region or entire country can be even more variable.  While there are generalized flavor rules of thumb that can be made, (i.e. Ghana is generally more fudgy vs. Madagascar which is generally more bright and fruity), they are not always the case.

The TCHO Flavor wheel is our innovative way to focus on the key flavors inherent in chocolate.   

Does the flavor profile of TCHO’s chocolates ever change? There is subtle flavor variation in each batch of chocolate. Cacao is a seasonal crop and every cacao bean is different. Where cacao is grown, the varietal, the climate, the drying, roasting, and many additional factors, all affect the flavor of the cacao beans. Our chocolate makers are experts in cacao and are highly trained tasters.  Each chocolate maker has gone through extensive flavor/tasting trainings to develop and hone their palates. This allows them to carefully select the cacao beans each season that are most in line with our flavor profiles.  While we celebrate the natural variation found in each lot of cocoa, we are always trying to find a way, ultimately, to make delicious and consistent chocolate.

What are TCHO’s values? We started TCHO to make the best chocolate in the world, and do it in a way that actually makes the world a better place. Through pioneering innovative partnerships, we co-develop improved farming practices, TCHO Flavor labs, and communication tools with farmers, cooperative leaders, and cacao researchers around the globe. Our business model is built on the premise of sourcing the best ingredients in a way that benefits farmers and creates a delicious chocolate. We strive to treat our growers fairly, source ethically, and reduce our environmental impact. We do it because it’s the right thing to do. And because it results in better chocolate. 

Are you local? TCHO is based in beautiful Berkeley, California.

Does TCHO give factory tours? Our Berkeley factory is not currently open to the public for tours.

Source

Where is cacao grown? Cacao trees grow and produce cocoa pods around the world within a narrow belt of about 20 degrees North and South of the equator.  We source our cacao beans from 5 main origin countries including Ghana, Ecuador, Peru, Madagascar, and the Dominican Republic.

What is TCHOSource? TCHOSource™ is our innovative in house program for partnering with cacao farmers, cooperatives, and research organizations in cacao producing countries to co-create the best cacao beans possible.  TCHOSource is the heartbeat of TCHO.  Through this innovative sourcing program, we obtain  high quality, fine flavor cacao beans while supporting the producers of those beans to earn a better living.

A few of TCHOSource’s accomplishments to date include:
1.  Installing state of the art temperature monitored fermentation centers and drying stations at cooperatives throughout Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.
2.  Installing TCHO Flavor Labs,  mini bean-to-bar chocolate making labs that enable farmers to make and taste chocolate made from their own beans. For many farmers, this is the first chocolate they have tasted and for nearly every farmer it is the first time tasting chocolate made from their own cacao beans.
3. Providing sensory analysis training to farmers and cooperative leaders to cultivate the understanding and communication of flavor throughout the supply chain.

What are TCHO Flavor Labs? Many cacao farmers have never tasted chocolate, let alone chocolate from their own beans. This reality is shocking to many and a huge obstacle to sourcing delicious tasting cacao beans.  TCHO Flavor labs completely changed this dynamic in our supply chain. TCHO Flavor Labs are bean-to-bar chocolate labs that allow farmers and research organizations to make chocolate and taste the flavors of their beans in the same way chocolate makers do. TCHOSource™ has installed 10 TCHO Flavor Labs at cooperatives and leading research organizations in cacao producing countries.

With each TCHO Flavor Lab, TCHO provides a battery of sensory trainings for the farmers at each co-op to help identify peak flavors (as well as off-flavors) in cacao. This helps farmers identify and hone their growing and post harvest practices to create great beans. Ultimately when farmers produce a better quality bean, we are able to pay a better price and make a better chocolate.

What is Fair Trade? Fair Trade is a social movement to ensure farmers and artisans are paid a livable wage for their hard work. TCHO adheres to the standards of Fair Trade USA for many of our products which ensure our cacao suppliers are paid a minimum price and receive a special Fair Trade premium to fund quality improvement and social programs. A full list of Fair Trade USA’s standards can be found here.

What do you mean your products are “beyond Fair Trade”? While we proudly source Fair Trade certified cacao for many of our products, our TCHO Source program and the quality premiums we pay are well above the minimum standards and pricing set by Fair Trade.

Are there any nuts in “Nutty,” or fruit in “Fruity?” No, these single origin chocolates showcase the natural flavors found in cocoa beans. The fruit and nut flavors are inherent flavors in the cacao beans hand-selected for these chocolates.

How do you evaluate and taste chocolate?
#1  Break the bar.  It should snap, not bend.
#2  Take a moment to smell the chocolate before tasting. Notice the aromas.
#3  Chew a piece of the chocolate but don’t swallow and let the chocolate completely melt over your taste buds.
#4  Breathe in the aromatics. Does the chocolate taste fruity? What kind of fruit notes do you taste? Is it earthy? Acidic? Floral? Nutty? Malty?
#5  Evaluate overall flavor, mouthfeel, and experience.

Ingredients

Are your products Fair Trade Certified? Many of our products are made with Fair Trade certified cacao beans and cocoa butter. Please look for this image on individual product pages to signify our Fair Trade certified products:

Are your products Organic? Many of our products are made with certified Organic ingredients. Please look for this information on individual product pages to signify our organic certified products:

Is TCHO chocolate gluten-free? Yes. 

Is TCHO chocolate kosher? Yes. Our chocolate has been certified by Earth Kosher. Some bars with nuts or other tasty inclusions are not certified Kosher – look for the Earth Kosher badge on each individual product page. 

Is TCHO chocolate vegan? All of TCHO’s organic dark chocolates, cacao nibs, and cocoa powder are vegan. Our milk chocolates contain dairy and are not vegan.

Are TCHO chocolates made with non-GMO ingredients? Yes. 

What does “possible traces of nuts and milk” mean? All of our chocolates are made on the same machines. We produce milk chocolate and chocolate with nuts in our facility. Though we do a thorough cleansing between production runs, it is possible that traces of milk or nuts may be left in our machines,. We have a complete allergen mitigation program in place to ensure there is as little cross-contamination of allergenic ingredients as possible. We participate in the voluntary labeling of our products to help you make informed choices about your health. 

Is your chocolate soy free? Our 81% Extra Dark and TCHOPro 99% Chocolate are made without soy lecithin. However, those products may contain traces of soy as it is produced on the same production line as our other chocolate products. We practice strict quality assurance and safety procedures to prevent any cross-contamination of allergens.

Our TCHO Roasted Cacao Nibs and TCHO Cocoa Powder are soy free. 

Why does TCHO use soy lecithin? We use soy lecithin (an emulsifier) in most of our chocolate products. Soy lecithin is highly effective at controlling the thickness (viscosity) of chocolate. The amount we use is always less than half of 1%. 

Is your cocoa powder Dutch Processed? No. Our cocoa powder is all natural and has not been put through any chemical processes, including Dutch process or alkalization. 

What percentage of cacao is TCHO chocolate? We offer a range of different chocolates with varying flavor profiles and intensity of cacao.  Our milk chocolates range from 39% to 53% cacao and our dark chocolates range from 60.5% to 99% cacao.

Sales

Do you offer bulk discounts? Contact sales@tcho.com for orders over $500.00. 

Where can I buy TCHO? Visit our Westfield San Francisco Centre kiosk, our online web store, or (coming soon) use our store locator to find a retailer near you! 

Do you ship internationally? Not yet. You can contact sales@tcho.com to inquire about retail locations with TCHO in your country. 

Do you wholesale? Yes! Contact our sales department to learn more. Contact sales@tcho.com for more information.

Are your TCHO Pro baking chocolate blends single origin? Two of our TCHO Pro chocolates are single origin:
Chocolatey 70%, which is from Ghana, and Fruity 68%, which is from Peru.

TCHO Pro Chocolatey 70% Dark Chocolate 3kg bag

TCHO Pro Fruity 68% Dark Chocolate 3kg bag 

Shipping & Ordering

When will my order ship? Letting chocolate melt over your tongue is the one of the best parts of eating chocolate. Opening a box of already melted chocolate, not quite as fun.   

We are committed to delivering the best chocolate experience possible.  In order to deliver your chocolate in perfect condition, we reserve the right to hold your order if temperatures pose a risk of damage. Please allow 2 business days to process and ship your order. All orders will ship between Monday and Wednesday, as we do not ship chocolate over the weekend due to unpredictable temperatures. Contact orders@tcho.com with any questions.

Why can’t I have product shipped over the weekend? Many parcel carriers do not move product over the weekend and we cannot guarantee that your chocolate is under temperature-controlled conditions.. We want to ensure you receive your order in the same delicious condition that it leaves our factory. We’ll hold your order if temperatures across the country are too warm to safely ship your chocolate. This means that we do not allow product to be in transit over the weekend. 

What is TCHO’s return policy? Our general policy is to not accept returns as chocolate is a food product. Please, contact sales@tcho.com for further questions regarding our return policy. 

Can I ship to a P.O. Box or an APO/FPO? We do not currently ship to P.O. boxes, APO’s or FPO’s.

How much is shipping? During cool months we offer 3 different types of shipping:

Ground:  $12.99
Expedited (2-3 day transit time):  $19.99
Overnight shipping: $39.99

During warm months where high temperatures can be unpredictable, we may require that you choose Expedited shipping to ensure that your chocolate arrives in the same condition that it left our factory. 

Storage

How do I read the lot code or Best By Date on TCHO’s products? All TCHO products have a small white sticker with a 4-digit lot code. The 4-digit lot code uses a Julian Calendar coding system to indicate the date that the product was manufactured. The first 3 digits correspond to the day of the year that a product was manufactured (001 would mean January 1st and 365 would mean December 31st). The last digit corresponds with the year that a product was manufactured (7 would mean 2017). See the next FAQ to determine shelf life of our chocolate.

What is the shelf life on TCHO’s chocolates? Our pure dark chocolates (chocolate without any inclusions like nuts or fruit), drinking chocolate, cocoa powder, and cacao nibs, have a shelf life of 18 months from their manufacture date. Our pure milk chocolates and any chocolate that has inclusions have a shelf life of 12 months from their manufacture date.

How should chocolate be stored? Chocolate is best stored between 35oF and 65oF in a cool, dry place.

Can chocolate be stored in the refrigerator and/or freezer? We don’t recommend it. Chocolate is highly susceptible to moisture, which is prevalent in refrigerators and freezers. When exposed to moisture, chocolate can take on a whitish cloudy hue called “sugar bloom” that is the result of sugar being pulled to the surface, which doesn’t look as visually appealing. Chocolate is best stored in a cool dry place.