Last month, Rachel Black’s Food and the Senses class and Gastronomy lecturer Netta Davis took a field trip to Taza Chocolate in Somerville, MA. The class participated in a factory tour, and each student had the opportunity to closely scrutinize the facility not only with their eyes, but also with all of their physical senses. Student Robert Haley recounts his experience.
by Robert Haley
Taza Chocolate Factory provides any visitor to their facility with a multi-sensory experience that ensures the guest will leave with greater knowledge of their product, as well as familiarity with all of the types of chocolates they offer through firsthand interaction. The first sensory experience takes place when you enter the door, and you go from a dilapidated factory exterior in a rundown area of Somerville to a cozy gift shop well-decorated in a Central American theme. The shop is adjacent to the closest production room, which can be viewed through the large picture windows located next to the register. Though the interior of the production room is quite commercial and unflattering in color, it does provide the visitor a chance to see instantly a part of the chocolate making process as it is happening.
Taza goes even further to ensure that your first moments at the factory are as connected with the coveted chocolate as possible, as throughout the shop area there are baskets of free samples containing a variety of their different types of chocolates. Unlike most tours associated with food items, Taza encourages sampling of their unique Mexican chocolates before beginning the factory tour. It seems that this multi-sensory exposure to the chocolate at the outset is beneficial for both Taza and its guests – the ingredients and processes behind the production of Mexican chocolate is different from what most Americans associate with more “traditional” chocolates. There are no dairy additives, and the resulting smell, flavor, and taste reflect this difference. The mouthfeel of the chocolate is grittier than its counterpart produced with dairy, and the flavor of the cacao is more defined here than in other chocolates. Taza seems to suggest that for the guest to fully comprehend the production process viewed on the tour, they should first expose themselves to the product using all of the senses.
While only a small section of the factory was in production while we participated in our tour, Taza Chocolate does an excellent job describing the process from farm to factory. As with the gift shop, Taza ensures the tour is a multi-sensory experience, where throughout the visit raw ingredients are made available for the guests to see, smell, touch, and taste. Our group was able to smell various cinnamon samples, handle a roasted cocoa bean, examine nibs created from the cocoa bean shell, and of course, sample many types of chocolate. The strongest sense experienced throughout the tour was smell, as even though production concluded for the day, the smell of the chocolate making process still lingered in each room, seemingly inviting the guest to experience more.
The Taza Chocolate tour is a welcome experience for anyone looking to learn the unique process behind the production of Mexican chocolate, and participate in a multi-sensory experience along the way. By allowing the visitor to experience all facets of the product at the outset, as well as throughout the tour, they ensure the guest has a greater understanding of what Taza is trying to achieve with their brand, and how they go about creating their product.
Rob Haley is working towards his Master’s in Gastronomy, and is also the Senior Media Producer at the Office of Distance Education at Boston University.