You already know of my deep hardcore love for Tcho chocolate. I have switched to it from the behemoth Callebaut, and I couldn’t be happier. Not only have all my bitchyass procurement problems been solved, but in general Tcho just 100% lives up to my wildest expectations of what a chocolate company could be.
One little thing had been niggling at me, however, and last week it finally got resolved. Their policy on slavery, as I’ve mentioned trillions of times, is sterling (not Roger Sterling though, thank god! Hey, I made a Mad Men joke!). But it took me a little time to get some info from them on their environmental practices—how are their beans grown, are they sprayed, etc etc.* The fact that it took time wasn’t anyone’s fault, it was just a long, long game of phone tag with John Kehoe, their Director of Sourcing & Farmer Relations.
We finally found time to talk, all my concerns were addressed, and I’m just floating on a cloud.
OK. Let me say first of all that John Kehoe is basically my new BFF and I am basically madly in love with him. This dude is a Resistance is Fertile sort of guy, for sure.
Do you think he likes me too?
When our mutually hectic schedules finally allowed a sliver of time to talk, he was driving up from San Francisco toward Oregon for the weekend and we talked for an hour or so, calling each other back maybe 20 times because he kept losing service as he drove up the coast. We made it work, because we are BFFs and cool like that.
I wanted to have the talk with him that I have with all my farmer suppliers for my business: I so understand that you’re not certified organic. I have tons of qualms with the USDA-run crap organic certification program (do a search on “organic” on this here blog to read all about my qualms) and completely get that farming practices are just more complicated these days than one little word can explain. So let’s talk about how you farm—do you farm organically but are not certified, do you do Integrated Pest Management, are you Certified Naturally Grown, biodynamic, veganic, permaculturey? Do you use cold frames, solar-powered greenhouses, biodiesel tractors? Do you keep and kill animals? Are your workers paid well? Where do they live and where are they from and what are their opportunities for advancement on your farm?
Let’s get into it.
So we talked about where Tcho chocolate beans are grown and how they are grown and who grows them and how they farm and why and the craziness of certification processes and poverty and idealism and how to make things better while also making a good product and I told him my little secret: Most organic chocolate stinks. And he agreed. And I mentioned Dagoba and all the rest and he talked about how hard Tcho was working to change the perception of truly ethical chocolate through really high standards.
I learned a lot. Though their chocolate isn’t organic, they take many steps to ensure that it is grown in as eco-friendly ways as possible. As well, they are committed to working with smaller farmers as a way to support growing businesses in developing countries** and John gave me several examples of awesome programs they are involved in that I very unfortunately didn’t take good notes on that work to assist small farmers in Africa and other places where their chocolate is grown.
In general, John was insanely knowledgeable about the politics involved in the chocolate industry and reassured me completely that Tcho is the company I want to be with. I said that I was so honored that he was taking so much time to talk to me when I am the tiniest chocolate maker in the universe, and he said that Tcho loves small businesses and that Lagusta’s Luscious is totally the sort of company they want to work with.
A love fest, that’s what it was, I tell ya.
And! In an earlier phone message when I was outlining what I wanted to chat about once we finally made it work, I mentioned this weird little thing: their TchoPro, the chocolate I use, is labeled “conventional.” I understand that this is to distinguish it from their other types of chocolate (“fruity,” “floral,” “citrus,” etc. These designations don’t mean that the chocolate contains fruit, flowers, or citrus, but that the beans themselves contribute those flavors. Neat, huh?) and to show that the Pro line is an all-purpose chocolate, but to me the word “conventional” means “not organic” and, trying so hard as I do to buy as much organic as I can, it always jars me. When John and I talked, he said that he took this offhand remark to a meeting and after a good discussion they decided to rename the chocolate! How rad is that?
Then! When I got home form a whirlwind trip to Chicago, a package was waiting for me from my new boyfriend John with a very exciting new treat he had mentioned on the phone: beta test samples of the brand new Tcho certified organic chocolate! I knew a certified organic Tcho was coming, but I didn’t think it was this close. I’m waiting for my supertaster sweetheart to come home before we taste, but I’m obviously anticipating making it my house chocolate.
(Also, said sweetheart sometimes beta tests various sound engineery and tour managery programs [right now he is swooning over this thing called Master Tour Database and though this is a major digression, I have to say that I’m sort of in awe of it too. It even has sections for important notes like “this venue has a great runner who will bring you good vegan pizza for the after show meal” and my systems-loving self thrills to see it every time I look over his shoulder] and I’m excited to be a beta tester for something as awesome as chocolate).
Oh, Tcho. I see us going steady for a long long time.
(Know what else is cool about Tcho? They don’t make any weak-ass cow tit chocolate! Hooray for 100% dark chocolate companies!)
*Just a warning: there aren’t great specifics here, dearest blogreaders, and I’m sorry for that. While I love this here blog, I really resist the idea that I need to put all this extra stress on myself to be some sort of journalist and take detailed notes on my life so I can report everything interesting here in the most accurate way. The conversation I’m lazily reporting reassured me about their growing practices and I want to report my excitement about said reassurance here, that’s all.
**I know “developing countries” isn’t the most p.c. term (because it implies that development is always the goal), but I can’t think of what else to say. “Third-world” isn’t right either. It’s like how I hate saying that I only want to go to “ethnic” restaurants, but I don’t have a better way to get across my point that if my mother drags me to another bland vegan restaurant run by white people I will scream (I just spent a few days with my [vegan] mom, who believes that—wait! This is a great topic for another post I will get to soon).