Since TCHO announced they were moving their operations to the Berkeley/Emeryville border back in 2014, we’ve anxiously awaited for them to resume factory tours and the opening of their promised retail shop. While we still can’t provide a date, TCHO promised this will happen within a year. The refurbished Marchant Building where they moved is now home to an Amazon Fulfillment Center, a Clif Bar warehouse and the soon to be open City Sports Club.
In the meantime, The E’ville Eye enjoyed an exclusive factory tour of TCHO – A New American Chocolate courtesy of sales representative Alana Buckley. A recent culinary school grad, Buckley came to TCHO after working for The Claremont Hotel & Spa. TCHO’s previous SF Embarcadero location brought in desired foot traffic but they quickly outgrew their space. In addition to moving their manufacturing and warehousing to the East Bay, TCHO leases an office space at the nearby Towers Office complex that houses TCHO’s administrative staff. TCHO was founded in 2005 by Wired magazine founders Jane Metcalfe and Louis Rossetto together with a former NASA contractor.
The new factory space is roughly 49,000-sq. ft. and nearly twice as big as their former SF space. The shiny MacIntyre chocolate processing machines are manufactured in Germany and run daily. Each performs its task individually while maintaining synchronicity with the others. The initial step of the assembly line uses a machine referred to as “The Mac” which grinds the cocoa beans in a way that produces the smooth chocolate texture. The liquified chocolate then moves through hot water jacketed pipes for additional processing before they are molded into bars. The molded Chocolate then passes through a vibration machine and a metal detector and gets imprinted with the trademark geometric design and logo. The bars are then loaded into the wrapping machine (shown in the video below) and boxed for shipping. The plant manufactures four hundred metric tons of chocolate annually.
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TCHO prides itself in its sustainable sourcing practices using beans from farms in Peru, Ecuador, Madagascar and Ghana. Different regions of the world have different genetic varieties of cacao, combined with the different climate, soil and cultural practices yield different flavors. Beans from Ecuador are said to have a “nuttier” flavor and differ dramatically from the popular Dutch processed chocolates according to Buckley. She also adds that TCHO Chocolate cocoa powder is all natural, non-alkalized and contains 20%-22% cocoa fat. Their cocoa powder flavor is said to pair particularly well with a pinch of sea salt to any recipe.
TCHO has become a favorite ingredient of local establishments like Smitten Ice Cream in Rockridge and is used in gluten-free cupcakes at Jules Thin Crust pizzeria in Rockridge. It’s even used in a special Samuel Adams Special Holiday Beer. Find more recipes on TCHO.com.