Big excitements in chocolate land!

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My original idea for the font of the bonbons boxes was to somehow make it my (deceased) grandmother’s handwriting, based on an old journal of hers. I couldn’t figure out the logistics for how to work it, sadly.

I just came across an interesting tidbit in Dessert Professional magazine (specialty magazines, YES). They were reviewing Valrhona’s Tainori chocolate, and placed it in the “expensive” range of chocolates. A helpful guide at the end of the article explained their chocolate designations by price point:

  • Low: less than $4/lb wholesale
  • Moderate: $4-7/lb wholesale
  • Expensive: $7/lb.

Lagusta’s Luscious currently uses organic, fair-trade chocolates that are between $8-$15 a lb, wholesale. Until today, most of my chocolate was Callebaut organic and f/t, which is about $8.50 per lb. I also use some Taza chocolate in the Vandanas, which is in the $9/lb range and the Vandanas also include just a bit of Hawaiian-grown chocolate, which is, I kid you not, $15/lb. Not including shipping, of course. (And no, chocolate is not particularly light. And yes, it has to be Fed-Exed. From Hawai’i.) It’s a really small, sweet company, and I only use a little bit of their chocolate. I’m not complaining about the price, I’m just putting it out there so people know why products from small, independent, ethical companies cost more. (And it could be worse! Amano’s by-all-accounts-excellent choco is $20/lb, wholesale!)

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The same day I read that review, I was planning on blogging about my excitement that Theo and Tcho, two bean-to-bar companies I’ve been watching, both just started wholesaling. Theo’s prices are about $9-$11/lb which makes me so excited because it means I might be able to start ordering some of their chocolate and reduce my dependency on the largest chocolate company in the world, Callebaut. Theo is the only bean-to-bar certified organic and f/t wholesaler in the US, and I’ve been crushing on them for ages. I’ve been bugging them for wholesale prices for about a year, so this is a big event. Their wholesaleable chocolate is a bit bitter for my uses (70% is their sweetest), but I got some samples and really enjoyed it. I think I can work it in somewhere.

Tcho, though.

For some reason, I had decided it was pronounced “choco.” Why I decided this I can’t really explain, but for the record it is pronounced “cho.” The thickly-accented old-school gentleman wholesale sales rep for Tcho, Beat Herrmann (best name ever!), very politely and cutely refused to tell me their wholesale prices until after I tasted the samples he’s sent (“Aye vill vait to talk about zee speeefics until you taste, my dear. Just taste! Zen ve vill talk!” Seriously, this is how he talks. And he signs his emails “Thanks for your interest in TCHOPro and I remain, with best regards, Beat Herrmann”).

So Veronica and I, and then Jacob and I, had a tasting of the, let’s just say, very generous, samples he sent. It was a LOT of chocolate. Which was good, because as it turned out, I need to do a lot of tests. Because: I FUCKING LOVE THIS GODDAMN CHOCOLATE and am making it the official Lagusta’s Luscious house chocolate!

(Sorry for the swearing, I just got really excited.)

Let me back up a little. Veronica and I both agreed that their 60.5 is just about the most smooth, inviting, non-challenging, all-around YUMMY chocolate we’ve ever had the pleasure of wrapping our tongues around. And we’ve had a lot of those kind of pleasures.

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If you love chocolate in the way most people I know love chocolate, you sometimes want a very wild, rough, intense nibble. You don’t eat Hershey’s Kisses before bed—you tuck into 80% chile-infused deep dark masterpieces made by mad geniuses who started their companies by maxing out their credit cards and hoping someone somewhere would love their insane creations. That’s all well and good for super sophisticated choco lovers, but I want my chocolates to be user-friendly. As I’ve shamefully admitted before, I am not a super sophisticated choco lover. I want rounded sweetness, warmth, and friendliness in my chocolate. I want buttery, happy, melty, deep, soft, just slightly toasty, eminently tasty chocolate. TchoPro’s 60.5% is my dream chocolate.

My supertaster of a sweetheart, Jacob, thinks it’s perfect for the truffles and bonbons, but privately he thinks it’s a tiny bit shallow. It’s not the most sophisticated chocolate (of course, compared with the trash chocolate most of America eats—Hershey’s and such—it’s as avant garde as it gets), and that’s just fine by me, because I dress it up with nuts and fruit and alcohol and chilies and salt and everything else under the sun. I need a chocolate that plays well with others. TchoPro 60.5% was made just for me.

I told Beat I had fallen hardcore head-over-heels for the chocolate, and was pretty much terrified that I wouldn’t be able to afford it. He finally sent the pricelist, and it literally took my breath away: with shipping from San Francisco, Tcho is going to cost me just about the same as Callebaut.

I read his email on my phone in the car on the way back from the Kajitsu dinner and I was already on a major high, so when I nervously opened his email and this realization sunk in, I, quite literally, gasped. Then squealed. Then talked very fast for too long. Then just sat back and smiled. Let’s parse this:

Remember my horrible horrible chocolate woes? Gone. With Tcho as my main supplier, I can just order the chocolate directly from the people who make it. No middleman. (No middlewoman, either. God, middlewomen are the worst.) It sounds so easy, but it’s been so hard for me.

Even better, I feel much better about using Tcho than Callebaut. As I said above, Callebaut is the world’s largest chocolate maker, and I am perhaps the world’s smallest chocolatier. As I am determined to stay small, I want to work with other small companies. It makes me happy.

There’s something else, too. Who knows what’s really happening with organic and fair-trade certified chocolate, you know? I’ve heard horror stories. I feel much better going with a company who is upfront and honest about their sourcing practices—no slavery, peeps. For real.

Oh boy. My cup of choco excitement runneth over! Things are happening in the chocolate world, people! My heart is beating wildly. It’s getting better. I really believe this. People are buying better chocolate: better tasting, more ethically-produced, and yes, more expensive chocolate. This is as it should be. We are paying a real price for our treats: My suppliers are paying their bean growers a real price, I am paying a real price for their chocolate, and I am paying my sous chef a fair wage.

Now if I could only work it so I make more than $2 an hour, we would be getting somewhere.*

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*That’s because I figure that I basically work, in some capacity, pretty much every hour of the day when I’m not sleeping. Talking to people, eating at restaurants, reading food blogs and magazines, researching, testing, cleaning, cleaning, again with the cleaning, shopping, paperwork, emailing clients, washing dishes, commuting—it’s all somehow tied to work, right? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

9 Responses to “Big excitements in chocolate land!”

  1. John

    LOVED YOUR BLOG AND COMMENTS !!!!

    Thanks so much. I will respond to your email this efternoon / evening.

    Sincerely,

    John Kehoe
    Director of Sourcing &
    Farmer Relations

    Reply
    • lagusta

      Yeah, but all the ones I looked at required a handwriting sample of an alphabet that I don’t have. That link scares me, Brittany! But OK, I’ll give it another round of research when the boxes need to be reprinted, thanks!

      Reply
  2. Steve

    I think you meant to say your grandmother is “deceased” and not “diseased.”

    Reply
  3. marja samsom

    whirlwind of fresh information,
    loved meeting timothy childs;
    great inspiration.
    as chef rest owner, now more then ever artisanal
    rocks ,bringing producers,
    customers closer,
    xo marja

    Reply
  4. =Abe=

    I loved this! I’m just getting into chocolate making and always looking for neat reference information. I book marked this page after I read, “I FUCKING LOVE THIS GODDAMN CHOCOLATE!”

    Great lil read! Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Emma

    Hey! Great post! I love TCHO and what they are doing. I love love love your chocolate mould..Would you share where you purchased that mould please?!

    Reply

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