The Taza Chocolate Factory is in Somerville. This is the second chocolate factory tour I’ve been on (the first was Theo’s Chocolate Factory in Seattle) and it was just as fun. Both tours included a fair bit of detail about the machines they use to make the chocolate and were very open about how the chocolate is made, so I’ll run you through some of the interesting things I saw and learned.
First of all, Taza is a small chocolate factory. The whole thing fits in a small building and some of the processes run on a single machine. It produces about 8,000lb of chocolate per week, compared to the almost 20,000,000lb per week of Hershey (source is Ask.com, so who knows, but the order of magnitude can’t be that far off.) A lot of the machines are vintage and were found overseas. They have two technicians for the entire factory. They do everything from roasting/drying the beans to packaging and shipping out the chocolate, plus they buy the beans directly from farmers (which are mostly in the Dominican Republic.) It is a very cool operation.
Sexy machine no. 1:
This guy is their sole bean roasting/dryer. It is vintage from Europe. It heats the beans to about 245F, tumbles them in the big barrel, then drops then into the cylindrical basin, which mixes and cools them. The operation of this machine is no science – it takes about 45min per batch, and batch size can vary, though it’s usually around 75lbs. Our tour guide said they run this machine long hours, until 10pm every night, though the factory is only in operation weekdays.
Some quick math: at 8,000lbs of chocolate per week, we’re looking at 1600lb/day. Chocolate is not all cacao bean, but let’s say the average Taza chocolate is 70% cacao (this is probably a little high). That’s a little over 1,000lb cacao/day. At 45min per 75lbs, we’re looking at about 10hrs of operation a day. Running until 10pm each night, this is easy to achieve. So when I asked the tour guide if this machine was ever the bottle neck and she said no, she must have known what she was talking about. 🙂
Another sexy machine:
This guy takes the roasted beans, jumbles them to separate the shells, then separates the nibs (the inside part of the cacao) into different sizes. This machine came from South America and they had to chop the legs off to get it into the States. You can see below how they welded it back together.
Taza makes chocolate in the traditional Mexican style, which really means that they grind the nibs using Oaxacan granite stones, like the one below. They take two facing each other and rotate one. If they get too close they’ll spark; this is apparently where the phrase “nose to the grind stone” comes from: you had to smell for smoke in case you were lighting anything on fire.
I couldn’t get a great look at the grinding machines. I did get a good look at their packaging facility. Apparently when they started their were wrapping the chocolate bars by hand. On a good day one person could wrap a bar in 30 seconds. Since they’ve introduced a machine they’re doing 50-60 a minute. The wrapping machine actually looked really interesting since a lot of their bars are circular.
I couldn’t quite figure out how it worked. I would love to go back and get a machine tour of the factory with a line manager or technician, so I can ask about how all the machines work. I got the card of the Assistant Production Manager, so we’ll see how that goes. However, I highly recommend the tour. Other than the sweet machines, you learn a lot about how chocolate is made and also get to eat a lot of free chocolate.