Oh Taza! What am I to do with you? You are my favorite company of all for chocolate ethics, and detailed information. As I have written about you before, I think you set the standards for what all chocolate companies should be like. But why oh why do your products suck so badly? I take that back. They don't suck that badly or else you wouldn't be that popular, but you have ruined the landscape for what people know to be good chocolate. Your novelty act, and flooding of the market has made it impossible to have rational discussions about what good chocolate is. Your local philosophy has struck a nerve with the purists in this town who buy your chocolate like trendy zombies who seem desperate to be in the loop of what is fashionable in the local/organic scenery. They recite your walking tour talking points as if they fully understand the process and willfully except a mediocre product as if they were given pure Porcelana beans.
You could be so much more than you are. You could be so much better. This stone ground idea should have been a small concept in your arsenal of artisanal chocolate bars. You could be making much more refined bars and really putting out stellar products that make the whole world sit up and take notice. It's not easy being a true bean-to-bar producer and being as dedicated as you are. You have high quality beans that are being wasted, in my god's honest opinion, on these rough, sandpaper, less than enjoyable textured, over-aromatic chocolate bars. You have destroyed what is pretty about chocolate.
I know you think this is beautiful and these products are exactly what you hoped for based on your process. And you have your army behind you to defend you and keep buying your products. But it won't work with me. Not because I am defiant and bullheaded, but because I have never jumped on this bandwagon. It wasn't good the first time I tried it and it still isn't good.
I know, a lot of people will vehemently disagree with this post, but they don't get to taste what I taste. They don't know what I know is out there. Yes, yes, taste is subjective, but you are getting away with it because of the fact that good chocolate hasn't permeated the landscape... yet.
All the power to you as you continue your dominance as one of the few actual bean-to-bar producers in this country. Your success is ultimately good for chocolate no mater what I think. But you and I know the truth. You could be so much better.
*People need to know that as harsh as this is, it's not exactly easy to write. Those who know me, know I have never been a big fan of this chocolate, but I do respect greatly the people behind this company. They are very generous and fun people to hang around as they love beer and are a constant supporter of BeerAdvocate. Their commitment isn't what is in question with me. It's why aren't they better than this? It's been a long time coming however, for me to fully express my dissatisfaction with Taza. And as I go further and further into my own explorations and journeys with chocolate, I grow further and further apart from them.
Bean Varital: Mostly Trinitario with some Criollo.
Ingredients: Cocoa beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter, whole vanilla beans.
Sample Size: 3oz or 85g
Batch #: 369
Via their batch number identifcation on their website:
Batch #369 - 70% Dark Bar - Taza Chocolate
Variety: 70% Stone Ground Dark Bar
Made On: September 9 2010
Ingredients: Organic roasted cacao, cane sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla bean.
Last Made: August 6 2010
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Provincia: María Trinidad Sánchez
Municipality: El Factor (El Pozo)
Area: Reserva Científica Loma Guacanejo
Fermentery Location: Lat. 19.293363, Long. -69.904128
Varietal: Mostly Trinitario; Some Criollo.
Growers & Farm:
Cooperative: Red de Comercializacion Loma Guacanejo
Grower: Hilario Rosario
Farm: El Higuero
Pure Cane Sugar - Jalles Machado
Origin: Sertãozinho (São Paulo), Brazil
Whole Biodynamic Vanilla Bean - Villa Vanilla
Origin: Villanueva (Puntarenas), Costa Rica
Organic Cocoa Butter, Natural
Origin: La Red Guacanejo, Dominican Republic
Lot Received On: May 21 2010
Lot #: LR19
Bean Bill: Single Origin Hispaniola Cacao
Roast Date: September 1 2010
Roaster Model: Barth Scirocco 200
Max Temp: 237° F
Roasted For: 48 minutes
Grind Date: September 2 2010
Made By: Mike Schechter , Kellie Silsby, & Greg Lashoto
Total # of Bars Made: 3,482 Bars
Wrapped On: September 6 2010
Appearance: Simple lined molding with a little thicker squares than a standard chocolate bar molding. Slightly shiny, but over all dull and lackluster.
Snap: Firm snap, loud with clean break lines. It should be noted that the way their molding is leading to fatter squares or chocolate and thicker lines to break in the molding give way to a much firmer snap. But still strong and clean.
Aroma: Huge aroma of pen ink, berries, roasted cocoa, with a big stinky perfume-y floral nose dominating and overwhelming. I could smell this across the room.
Taste: Sweet for one second then it opens up to a huge bitter, acidic taste, huge floral taste and berries and sugar interacting with acidic, sour notes. Too much competition for the attention on your palate. Sour, bitter, acidic after taste with zero hint of flowers or berries that were so vivid in the center of this chocolate opening.
Texture: Waxy, sandpaper, gritty, but an overall a fast melt time.
Okay, I am really not trying to be over dramatic here but this was awful chocolate. Just gross to eat. I struggled to get through this review. I ate one piece and really didn't want to have to eat another one.
The aroma was way too big. From afar you can really smell the flowery perfume of this chocolate with lovely berries, and roasted cocoa. But that's from across the room. Up close, it stank like sitting next to someone on a bus who happened to drown themselves in perfume.
The taste has way too much going on and leaves you with no time to appreciate or fully understand it's complexities. There is a sweet sugary taste with the berries, wood flavors, and floral notes, but they are in a fierce battle for dominance on your tongue with acid, bitterness, and astringency. And the sour notes win leaving a foul aftertaste that lingers for a while.
As if it couldn't get any worse, that goddamn sandpaper texture destroys your tongue leaving it raw and sensitive while it's being pummeled by the hugely unbalanced flavor profile. To add insult to your injured tongue, you have every asshole who just found Taza or just left one of their tours saying "Oh no but I like that texture. It's supposed to be gritty, That's what they said anyway. It's fun saying the word gritty... Lalalalala." They are regurgitating what they heard on the tour or what they learned in passing. "It's supposed to be gritty." I am sorry but I don't like having my tongue destroyed. I was supposed to review more chocolate after this but ended up having to call it a night so my scratched up tongue could recover.
This is what they want from chocolate? This technique of stone grinding that is supposed to be what all chocolate tasted like before a godsend by the name of Lindt came along and invented conching? I understand that leaving larger granules allows for bigger bolder tastes and more raw chocolate tastes. But this was the reason chocolate became more refined. Chocolate on it's own is very bitter and hard to understand right away and by conching it and grinding it to finer molecules you are releasing some of the acidity that happens during fermentation of the beans. You are blending and balancing the flavors and subtleties in such a way that you can identify them more easily, and get more of an understanding of the chocolate you just consumed.
This chocolate is like having a wrestling match in your mouth. It's unbalanced and it's chaotic to the palate. All the pretty things about this chocolate are slammed in your face and then disappear by acidity and astringency. It's quite frankly too big.
If you don't believe me or think I am being over dramatic, take any fine chocolate at 70%, break off a square and let it sit on your tongue and melt away. Analyze it and really understand it's flavors. Then take a piece of Taza 70% and do the same. You will never look at Taza the same again. And I can promise that no matter how different palates can be.
As I said before, Taza should have made the stone grinding a novelty and a small part of their overall collection. They should use this chocolate to teach classes with about the transformations from raw and unrefined chocolate to the gorgeous bars out there now. This being the raw and unrefined bars. And they should really focus on making refined bars that can compete on a world level. I have no doubt that they are more than capable of that. But sadly these products are not doing Dominican Republic beans any justice. Maybe monetarily wise, but I guess bullshit walks and money talks.
Final Score: 65.4