Taza Chocolates/Artisinal Mexican Chocolate
I randomly picked up a round bar of Taza's Chocolate Mexicano Cinnamon in SF during my last visit, not really expecting too much. I just opened the package and, man, this stuff is really good. So good that I'm having a hard time putting it down. It's somewhat similar to the Mexican drinking chocolate bars (my standby was Mayordomo, but when couldn't get that anymore, I switched to La Soledad), but much more refined and less sweet. Yet, it still has that rustic quality with a crunch of sugar crystals and whiff of cinnamon. I usually make hot chocolate, but I figured I'd give Taza's a try as an eating chocolate and I'm glad I did: the chocolate has a deep, complex taste. They must be sourcing some quality beans. I'm thinking that it has a very good chance of producing a superior cup of Mexican hot chocolate, as the sweetness of other brands is getting a bit cloying the older I get.
It's not cheap: $4.99 for the bar I bought, though the website lists $3.95. The website also states that Taza is the only US maker of 100% stone-ground chocolate. Taza is located in Somerville, MA.
For those in the Boston area, the open house is fun (they're located near Union Square). They give a tour of the facilities, you can eat tons of chocolate, and you can buy their stuff (including gifts and gear which you don't really see in stores). I think you might need to call or get on their email list to find out when they are.
Since I live in MA, I see Taza Chocolates around and have bought them on occasion. I had the 70% bar once. It was okay, but I prefer a smoother, less grainy chocolate.
I do like their cocoa nibs, but they are super expensive, so I bought them once or twice and that was it. You get about the same amount of chocolate that is in a fun-size pack of m&m's and it costs about $5.
My dad uses Mexican chocolate (intended for making hot chocolate) for eating. I forget the brand, maybe Ibarra. He is suspicious of artisinal chocolate -- he claims to have plebian tastes -- but it sounds like he might like Taza. Especially if I don't tell him I bought it at Draeger's.
I live in Boston, and I adore Taza chocolate,and I'm not even a chocolate fanatic. I, too, eat the rounds intended for hot chocolate; the almond one is amazing. It's such a visceral, earthy experience, a more immediate form of chocolate. As a matter of fact, all their chocolate is. The first time I tried their 50% bar, I thought it had a cherry flavor. The woman said no, that's just the flavor of the cocoa berries before they're been processed so much. Did I mention that the stuff is amazing? ;)
I don't know that Taza is the ONLY stone-ground chocolate producer in the U.S.... but the only other producer I know is an older lady in West L.A's "Little Oaxaca" selling hot chocolate out of her home =)
I just had some & the stuff actually does taste like drinking Chocolate in Oaxaca or Tabasco it pretty much has that rustic, floral, herbal complexity that I have encountered in any other packaged chocolate including Mayordomo.