Technology meets chocolate in SF

December 18, 2008 7:34:37 AM PST
You may think it doesn't take a rocket scientist to make great chocolate, but there's a chocolate manufacturer just setting up shop in San Francisco, who would beg to differ.

The new TCHO Chocolate Store at Pier 17 describes itself as the place where technology meets chocolate. When the plant begins its full operation it will generate four metric tons of chocolate every year.

Finding the perfect chocolate has been one giant leap for mankind - according to Timothy Childs, former NASA scientist, and co-founder of TCHO.

"I was entranced by the complexity of chocolate as a whole and when I got involved I found it more even more complex and interesting," said Childs.

TCHO's one of a kind approach to everything starts with the actual growing of the cacao beans in Peru, Ghana and Madagascar - where, inside the fermentation containers, TCHO has installed sensors to monitor exact conditions. The data from the sensors is fed back to the TCHO laboratory in San Francisco. Forever the scientist, Childs analyzes the data and determines which conditions produce the most flavorful beans.

"We take the beans, we kind of coax out the flavor of a particular bean. So when we say flavored chocolate, we are not talking about adding anything to it, we are talking about adding beans with these inherent flavors and pulling out those flavors into it," said Childs.

Flavor tweaking here in the lab is also ultimately original. A lab outfitted with electronic sensors from NASA, a heater from Walgreens and a curry making machine.

But what is Louis Rossetto, the founder of Wired Magazine, doing as CEO of a chocolate factory?

"Maybe Wired was the aberration and chocolate was my natural destiny," said Louis Rossetto, TCHO CEO.

For Rossetto, the work here, as it was at Wired, includes making the world a better place, teaching farmers how to make more money by producing premium cacao - which in turn aids in the search for the perfect and perfectly consistent chocolate.

"We actually have a person working full time doing nothing but going around the world literally to farmers and finding the beans we need, the great beans we need to make great chocolate," said Rossetto.

Expect more, says Rossetto, because the spirit of Wired is hardwired in here.

"People who are here are genuinely passionate about what they're doing and the passion about what they have is directly invested, is directly infused in the chocolate that we're making," said Rossetto.

The store opened this month, and its right next to the chocolate manufacturing plant which will be open for public tours in a few months.


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