Masters of the Dark Arts
It might seem foolish to launch a line of chocolate bars in January, just when everyone has gone (albeit temporarily) on a diet. Indeed, it might seem downright crazy to launch one at all in the increasingly crowded market of boutique bonbons.
It might seem foolish to launch a line of chocolate bars in January, just when everyone has gone (albeit temporarily) on a diet. Indeed, it might seem downright crazy to launch one at all in the increasingly crowded market of boutique bonbons. But Zipcar veterans Larry Slotnick and Alex Whitmore know there is one golden, if paradoxical, rule for creating a successful company: The product must be both unique and something everyone needs.
This month Slotnick and Whitmore unveil their first bars of Taza chocolate. Instead of a refined, buttery smoothness, Taza chocolate reveals the natural essence of the cacao bean, resulting in a raw chocolate flavor unlike any available locally. While other Boston confectioners buy their chocolate from a big company and mold it into bars and truffles they call their own, Taza controls every step of the process, making it the first “bean-to-bar” producer in town. “We’ve been waiting breathlessly,” says Caroline Yeh, owner of Temper Chocolates.
Slotnick, Taza’s business guy, travels Central and South America in search of the best-tasting, environmentally responsible beans. (So far, they’re importing beans from Costa Rica and Mexico.) Then, at their Somerville factory—really, a mostly empty loft space—Whitmore, the chocolatier, blends the chocolate. Using a Mexican stone grinder called a molino, he crushes the beans with sugar into a cocoa “liquor” before adding a small amount of cocoa butter, one of the ingredients that make chocolate fattening and melt-in-your-mouth good. Where some bars have more than 25 percent cocoa butter, Taza has a bar that uses just 10 percent. “A minimum amount of processing and fat lets the inherent flavor of the cacao shine through,” Whitmore says. Slotnick compares Taza’s chocolate to a perfectly cooked vegetable, observing, “Once broccoli is overcooked, you lose the taste.”
So it’s sort of like broccoli. Only, thankfully, not.
Available at Temper Chocolates, 502 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-375-2255, temperchocolates.com; Lionette’s Market, 577 Tremont St., Boston, 617-778-0360, goeboston.com; and Thursday and Friday nights at the Taza Chocolate Lounge at Mariposa Bakery, 424 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-876-6500, tazachocolate.com.