At Somerville Factory, Traditional Mexican Chocolate Thrives

A single bite of chocolate is all it took for the Taza Chocolate company to get its start in Somerville, Mass. But this chocolate was no ordinary cacao—it was stone-ground in Oaxaca, Mexico, and the mouth that tasted it was not ordinary, either. It belonged to Somerville native Alex Whitmore, who was immediately inspired by this chocolate and loved it so much that he had to take it back with him.

Whitmore, the founder of Taza Chocolate, subsequently moved his company into a single room on 561 Windsor St. in 2007. “The space changed itself along with the neighborhood,” said Josh Mamaclay, the factory store and tour manager. As Taza began internationally distributing its products, the tiny space at 561 Windsor began to encompass the first floor and half of the mezzanine floor.

With this expansion came more recognition from the communities of Somerville, Cambridge, and Boston. Tours that showcased Taza Chocolate’s unique “bean to bar” process began to take place to accommodate the newfound interest. Somerville also had a prospering culture of people who knew what they were talking about when it came to genuinely good, sustainably sourced food. “We wanted to foster this movement by participating in local farmers’ markets and hosting events that highlight other local vendors with a similar mission,” Mamaclay said.

The Taza Chocolate Factory Store, in which the company tours are held, offers products ranging from stone-ground chocolate bars, produced from only exceptional cacao beans, to stylish whisks that help create traditional Mexican chocolate drinks. College students in Boston are eligible for discounted tour passes. If a student group books a tour between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Tuesday or Wednesday, the tour will be half of the regular price. Private tours are booked on a first-come, first-served basis, Mamaclay said. During the tour, he will make you hit your “chocolate threshold.”

Mamaclay is also responsible for coordinating events such as the Dia de los Muertos Block Party and the culinary wonderland of Choctoberfest. As the factory tour and store manager, he is also responsible for pairing Taza’s directly sourced chocolate with wine, beer, or spirits. Choctoberfest will not be around for much longer. Held every Saturday in October from 1 to 4 p.m., only one remains, on Oct. 25.

This delectable festival, hosted at the Taza Chocolate Factory, provides an opportunity to taste Taza’s classic stone-ground chocolate, as well as beer, cider, and artisan cheeses. Cider companies such as Bantam Cider in Somerville and cheese makers such as Utah’s Beehive Cheese come from around the country to celebrate the pairing of chocolate and other artisanal foods. Choctoberfest is open to the public 21-and-over and features a different type of chocolate to match each food featured at the festival.

As the Taza Chocolate Company continues to thrive and release novel Mexican chocolate-inspired products, the “foodie culture” in Somerville grows along with it.

Whitmore brought authentic stone mills, which are integral to the production of Taza chocolate, from Oaxaca all the way to his Somerville factory. These traditional, durable mills serve as a reminder for Whitmore and his employees to not stray from Taza’s stone-ground roots. Whitmore still travels around Central and South America, while also making trips around the Caribbean to maintain his policy of directly sourcing the highest quality cacao beans for customers in the U.S. and around the world. No middleman is needed.

Taza Chocolate is constantly gaining steam with its products, and Mamaclay encourages customers to keep an eye out for new products—particularly, he hinted, during summer 2015—or expansion of the company. Taza already offers origin bars—minimally processed chocolate that resembles pure cacao beans as closely as possible—mini chocolate bars, discs, and Mexican-inspired kitchenware.

Taza may or may not have some flavors making a return soon. All Mamaclay would say on the matter was this: “’Tis the season.”

Featured Image Courtesy of Taza Chocolate