Usually, a bar of good quality chocolate is smooth and well-rounded, its flavors controlled and modified to fit a maker’s idea of what he believes to be the ideal flavor profile for an origin or blend. Taza, however, has a different approach. They want to leave the intrinsic qualities of the beans in a more pristine form, as unprocessed and unrefined as you can get without being unpalatable.
This doesn’t mean they’re simply crushing beans in a basement and molding the pulpy mass into crude tablets. No, Taza still utilizes many of the same steps most other makers employ, but they have their own twist on the processing, such as using traditional Mexican molinos (stone grinding mills) to crush and grind the cacao beans. Once ground initially, the beans are sent through another set of grinding mills (refiner) to reduce the sugar particle size.
After this step is complete, that’s it. The cocoa mass is molded into bars, and then wrappers are applied once the chocolate has formed. Most chocolate bars end their processing days at the conche to receive a finishing touch. A conche reduces the size of the cacao particles (which makes the texture smooth) and mellows out the volatile components (which makes the chocolate more palatable). Taza says, “no way, Jose,” to that and stops at the refiner, which yields some rustic results that may give us a sense of what solid chocolate was like before Rudolphe Lindt invented the conche.
As a result, there’s quite a bit of grit to the texture, but if you’ve ever eaten a Hershey bar and actually liked it, then there isn’t anything to complain about here. It’s definitely the first thing you’ll notice when tasting the chocolate. The granular consistency melts much more readily, I think, which exposes the flavor quicker as well.
Speaking of flavor, it’s lighter than most chocolates, and also bright, ardently flashing red sirens all over the place. Taza roasts their beans for a much shorter timeframe than most makers to preserve as much of the beans’ natural fruitiness as possible. Another key aspect to the flavor is sourness, which results from a lack of conching. It’s a peculiarity not found in chocolate that has been refined more thoroughly.
The 70% Dominican Republic bar, in particular, showcases Taza’s roasting style really well. It’s a bright red chocolate, flashing strawberries at full volume, with a lovely bitter almond counter. It gets playful at the midpoint as marshmallow shows up, then the chocolate turns spicier and darker the more it melts.
By contrast, the 80% Dominican Republic bar is noticeably darker but still very light, intensely conveying cherries and a slightly less complex flavor overall. In my opinion, this flavor and darker nature balance out the high acidity, which makes the bar more manageable than the 70%, and very approachable on its own.
The intense fruitiness and high acidity level impose a delusion of sweetness, thus obviating the need for extra sugar, which makes the bar a perfect low-sugar, high cocoa content selection without requiring much adjustment. The texture is also not as grainy either, striking a better balance for most Western folks, so all in all, this is Taza’s most accessible and pleasing offering.
In a sense, Taza’s chocolate is so retro it’s modern. Even the packaging sports a color motif common of the 1970s but updated according to modern sensibility.
Overall, the company just may have found their own cozy niche with this brand of chocolate, without even throwing in weird flavor combinations such as cumin-lavender-coffee to make their chocolate unique and exciting. I’d say that’s quite an accomplishment in the ever-expanding market of bean-to-bar makers nowadays, and I’m looking forward to what else the company has in store.