TAZA, with emphasis on the TAZA, is a one of a kind bean to bar chocolate company that offers stone ground chocolate. Taza is utterly different from chocolate such as Hershey or Cadbury because of the texture, which is quite grainy. The unique texture is not for everyone and takes some getting used to. Alex Whitmore, the founder of Taza chocolate discovered the stone ground chocolate while traveling in Oaxaca, Mexico and loved it so much that he wanted the taste to exist back home in the Boston area. He started a factory in Somerville, Massachusetts that is now a thriving company selling an assortment of Taza chocolate flavors and sizes and providing bean to bar process group tours. According to the Taza website, Taza has six core values that coincide with their mission: 1. Keep The Bean In The Bar; 2. Innovate And Be Adventurous; 3. Trust In Teamwork; 4. Act With Respect; 5. Be Excellent And Never Stop Improving; 6. Waste Not. (Taza web) As a blog poster that has been on the tour at Taza, I can attest that the company believes it is critical to keep their chocolate organic, their production clean and simple, and their waste not wasted. A successful bean to bar company succeeds by not only creatively and consistently producing a great product, but by also keeping their employees well informed and happy, and ensuring their consumers know exactly what is in their products.
There are three main components I will focus on in regards to how Taza’s principles and choices have impacted and advanced the cacao to chocolate making process. The first is direct trade, the second is ensuring no involvement with enslavement, and the third is the desire to keep their two main ingredients simple and pure.
Direct trade is very much like it sounds, a direct trade between the company interested in purchasing the product and the farmer making the product. Direct trade is a tremendous way to achieve company growth as you’re proving to your customers that you care about the treatment and lives of the farmers. The farmers are an essential part of the development between bean to bar and many huge organizations such as Hershey, Cadbury and Nestle are not direct trade as they do not find this value a priority. Taza chocolate is proud to be a direct trade establishment with a list of five direct trade principles on their website, and while explaining how Taza would not make chocolate without farmers, they include this statement: “That is why we are committed to maintaining direct relationships with our cacao farmers and compensating them fairly for the high quality cacao they produce. We’re also committed to partnering only with cacao farmers who respect the rights of workers and the environment.” (Taza web) Direct trade products are often more expensive but many feel satisfied buying direct trade as a portion of the money spent on the product ensures that the direct trade agreement says in tact for the farmer and company. The latter part of the statement above is a nice way to move to the next component, this bean to bar company is against any form of enslavement and wants their farmers to be comfortable with their environment.
Anyone reading this blog is likely already aware that child and adult enslavement is widely apparent in West Africa and a huge problem with the production of chocolate. Slavery on cacao plantations is commonly occurring inside the production of bigger chocolate companies, not the bean to bar companies more concerned with direct and fair trade. The Food Revolution Network confirms that Taza chocolate is a company that only uses cacao that has definitely not been produced with child labor. (FRN web) West Africa takes up the majority of where cacao comes from, nearly 70%. Though it is still a significant problem in the cacao to chocolate supply chain, many companies do not allow enslavement in their production and make efforts to travel to locations where their cacao comes from to ensure the lack of enslavement. Although some companies care about this value, there are many that do not and there are even organizations within West Africa determined to expose the people interested in putting a stop to enslavement on cacao plantations. According to the Food Empowerment Project, “In recent years, a handful of organizations and journalists have exposed the widespread use of child labor, and in some cases slavery, on cocoa farms in Western Africa. Since then, the industry has become increasingly secretive, making it difficult for reporters to not only access farms where human rights violations still occur, but to then disseminate this information to the public.” (FEP web) The point that it has become increasingly hard for cases of slavery to be exposed is frightening but true. There are often not enough company resources for research, time, and investigation. With direct trade and the lack of enslavement as viable reasons why Taza’s business practices are helping with positive growth and advancement, there is another component that is critical in the cacao to chocolate supply chain and that is the importance of using two simple and pure ingredients.
Simple Ingredients: Single Origin Cacao and Raw Cane Sugar
Taza chocolate is made primarily with two simple and smart ingredients: single origin cacao and raw cane sugar. Single origin cacao is essentially just as it sounds; the cacao is from a single origin location. Raw cane sugar is defined as the sucrose obtained from the sugar cane and it is often perceived as being more healthy than the regular white sugar we all know so well. In fact, according to an article on Mother Jones, raw sugar is no better for you than refined sugar,”White sugar is obtained by refining the sugarcane crystals to remove the molasses (and with that, trace nutrients), some nutritionists believe that the small amount of micro-nutrients retained in Sugar In The Raw® provides advantages over refined white sugar”. There is in fact no proof that raw cane sugar is more healthy than regular refined sugar. Taza loyally uses these two ingredients for several reasons: to improve and sustain the quality of the chocolate, to continue making a product without additives that is gluten and dairy free, and to ensure their chocolate is efficiently made and cost effective.
I knew I wanted to write about Taza as I was impressed with how knowledgeable the staff was of the products and the chocolate making process from bean to bar. It takes strong leadership to ensure that employees are not only well informed of the products and mission of the company, but that they are happy and feel that they are contributors to the growth and advancement of the company. What you immediately feel at Taza is this sense of care and value to produce something that matters. It’s apparent that bean to bar chocolate companies struggle to stay afloat as they are smaller than companies like Hershey or Nestle, and they require more time and energy from an often small and over-worked staff. Bean to bar companies are often built on important factors and values such as being direct trade, organic, dairy free and/or gluten free, no GMO, using only single origin cacao, and more. With these values comes cost and patience, therefor these companies are often paying a lot more to ensure their chocolate is a product they are proud of. I have learned throughout this semester that it’s imperative to buy chocolate that is prepared as naturally as possible and from companies that care about the outcome of the product and all that goes into the product such as the farmers health and happiness, the origins where the cacao comes from, and the importance of remaining true to core principles and the company mission. A company that cares to ensure direct trade products, rejects all forms of enslavement and makes efforts against child and adult slavery on cacao plantations, and sticks with solid and simple ingredients like single origin cacao and raw cane sugar, is a company I want to support. Yes, the bean to bar chocolate bars often cost more than a Hershey’s chocolate bar, but the difference between buying Hershey’s vs. Taza, the customer buying Taza should feel good about their money going to the greater good of chocolate making production. I choose to support companies like Taza and I think you should too.
“The Taza Chocolate Story.” Our Story. http://www.tazachocolate.com/About/Our_Story. Web. 6 May 2015.
“The Taza Chocolate Mission.” Our Mission. http://www.tazachocolate.com/About/Our_Mission. Web. 7 May 2015.
“Is There Child Slavery in Your Chocolate? – Food Revolution Network.” Food Revolution Network. 1 Feb. 2015. http://foodrevolution.org/blog/child-slavery-chocolate/. Web. 7 May 2015.
“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry; Food Empowerment Project. http://www.foodispower.org/slavery-chocolate/. Web. 8 May 2015.
“Sorry, Raw Sugar Is No Better for You than Refined.” Mother Jones. http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/09/is-raw-sugar-healthier-than-refined. Web. 8 May 2015.
Edible Vinyard. http://www.ediblevineyard.com/index.php/stories/article/taza_chocolate1. Web. 7 May 2015.
Taza Chocolate, Nolita Mart. http://nolitamart.com/taza-chocolate/. Web. 8 May 2015.
“Decoding the Label – Taza Mexican Style Stone-Ground Chocolate.” http://www.farmpunk.ca/decoding-the-label-taza-mexican-style-stone-ground-chocolate-review/. Web. 9 May 2015.
“Kitchen Table Talks Report: Chocolate with Dignity, Part I. http://civileats.com/2011/06/07/kitchen-table-talks-report-chocolate-with-dignity-part-i/. Web. 9 May 2015.
“Ozark Natural Foods.” http://onf.coop/tag/cacao-beans/. Web. 9 May 2015.
Smarty Pants: “Organic Cane Sugar vs Other Sweeteners: How They Measure Up, Part 1.” http://smartypantsvitamins.com/organic-cane-sugar-vs-other-sweeteners-how-they-measure-up-part-1/. Web. 9 May 2015. .