I don’t know how many of you have heard of Taza Chocolate, but up in Somerville and Cambridge, they’ve become a pretty big deal among the hip chocolate crowd. I’ve seen Taza Chocolates at airports and according to my tour guide, Taza is actually sold in all 50 states. In addition, the brand is sold internationally in countries including Switzerland, and even more humbling, Mexico.

I say “even more humbling” because the idea of Taza Chocolate was based on the stoneground Mexican chocolate that Taza’s founder, Alex Whitmore, had when he was traveling in Oaxaca, Mexico. The story is pretty unique because Alex actually ended up apprenticing under an Oaxacan stone miller to learn how to make the grinding stones which he uses for the Taza chocolates today. All the grinding stones used at the factory are hand carved by Alex right behind the factory in Somerville…talk about local! Still, it’s a great story because you have this guy who was clearly inspired enough by something to start a business out of it. He takes the time to really put in that effort - to learn about the business - to learn how to carve stones from molinero masters - and then come back to Somerville to create something truly special for the public.

Hand-Carved Milling Stone, Cacao Pods,Taza Chocolate. Each cacao pod weighs about a pound to a pound and a half.

If you haven’t tried Taza Chocolate, I would suggest you go and give it a try. Taza doesn’t add any soy or dairy to their chocolates and because it is stone ground, all the chocolates have this coarse “stone ground” texture to them, which is pretty neat. And because they work with quality cacao beans from Latin and South America, the actual chocolate flavor is much more pronounced. So yes, this is not your Nestle or Hershey’s chocolate chocolate - nor would you want it to be. It is an experience when you eat it, and that’s really the effect that all chocolate should have when eaten.

A Variety of Chocolates at the Taza Shop

If you don’t know stores that carry it, I’m sure you can give Taza’s customer service a call to find out. The business is expanding, but Taza is definitely not a “corporate chocolate factory” factory, nor do I think they want to be. It is still quite small with just several rooms and the feel is still very local, which is great.

This was hilarious because prior to the tour, everyone had to put on hair nets, and for those with beards…Taza actually has beard nets as well!

The wall explaining Taza chocolate from tree to packaged chocolate.

Bags of cacao beans each weighing 500 pounds.

Winnowing machine separating cacao shell from the cacao nibs.

Cacao nibs for sampling! Tastes a bit like crunchy coffee beans.

Molinos which grind the chocolate turning it into cocoa liquor.

More chocolate samples!

Tours currently run from Tuesday thru Sunday and are only $5 per person. The slots do fill up quickly and reservations are required. So if you happen to be in the Somerville area and have a craving for chocolate (they give out a lot of samples) and chocolate knowledge, then Taza is definitely a good place to visit.