I am Dr. Chocolate. In 2008, I earned a PhD from the University of Washington by studying chocolate. Now, I am on the hunt for the best chocolate in the world.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tcho in San Francisco

I did not go to Ghirardelli. I know that it is very famous and has a whole square named after it, and I even planned to visit and eat a brownie sundae with hot fudge. But instead I went to Tcho.

Tcho is the dictionary’s phonetic start to the word “chocolate,” which makes it a cool linguistic artifact and not a weird misappropriation of something Mayan, as I did suspect. It’s also a bean-to-bar chocolate factory, the only one in town after Scharffen Berger’s departure from Berkeley (shame on you, new owner Hershey), on Pier 17 along the Embarcadero. If you visit San Francisco, I insist that you take a tour and eat all the chocolate they give to you.

This is important: you must eat all of it. The reason is because they make a whole line of chocolates, each with a particular flavor - citrusy, chocolatey, nutty, fruity. Talking to Tcho’s chocolate makers made me feel that no one else on earth understood flavor. One of them, Zohara, spends her days tasting chocolate that has been fine-tuned in different ways by their factory machines, determining which one tastes the most “chocolatey.” This is her job.

Imagine having that as your job. Whatever you are doing right now, pretend that all the things on your desk, or in your backpack, or on your boat deck just transformed into chocolate, and your new priority for the workday was to eat it all and figure out which one tasted the best. And this wasn’t some random Employee Appreciation Day benefit, but you got paid for doing it, every single day.

You can approximate that by visiting Tcho and sampling their entire line, as I did. Leaving that factory was one of very few times in my life when I felt that I had approached my chocolate limit, so I think you will not be disappointed.

Next up: a month at Djerassi, an artists residency near Palo Alto, to write a few masterpieces.

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