TCHO on Pier 17
After hearing a rave review of TCHO chocolate from a friend who sampled their wares at the fancy foods show, I made my way over to Pier 17 to see for myself.
The little storefront on the pier seems to sell everything they make: from their elemental chocolate bars ("citrus," "nutty," "fruity," "chocolatey") to chocolate-dipped mango, nibs, macadamia, and another type of nut I can't recall.
Samples of each type of chocolate were set out, along with the nibs and mango. Like others have pointed out, TCHO doesn't suffer from lack of branding (they even had t-shirts on sale): the packaging is lovely and their website is flashy. The taste stands up to this: the chocolate tastes rich, full and luxurious. The basic chocolates are:
"Chocolatey" (Ghana, 70% cacao)
"Nutty" (Peru, 70% cacao)
"Citrus" (Madagascar, 70% cacao)
"Fruity" (Peru, 70% cacao)
My favorite was "Chocolatey," "Citrus" I liked the least. I agreed with someone's assessment that "Fruity" tastes the most like (RIP?) Scharffenberger. Note that the names describe the flavors, but the chocolate does not have fruit, nut or citrus mixed in.
Fair or not, service tends to make as much an impression on me as the product, and especially with new-ish places I expect a bit of a welcome, perhaps a "How did you hear of us?" No other shoppers happened into the store during my visit, but the clerk didn't say "hello" when I entered or speak to me while I was there, though the place is about the size of a Murphy bed closet. It was a little weird.
There is a Blue Bottle coffee set-up in the store, though they haven't started serving yet. I would visit again once they get in the swing of things (on the site, they promise the store/tasting room will be along the lines of a European cafe), but in the meantime it's easy to purchase their wares elsewhere: I've seen TCHO bars at Bi-Rite and the Blue Bottle at Mint Plaza.
An earlier thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/552802
I've had pieces of the Chocolatey, Nuttly, Fruity, and Citrusy, and like Pane, I preferred the Chocolatey. Loved it, in fact! Very rich, layered flavors. I found Fruity and Citrusy much too acidic--and they had a lingering sour aftertaste to boot.
I also did a side-by-side with some Lake Champlain squares (African Blend, Grenada, Sao Tome, and Tanzania), of which I liked the Sao Tome best. Tcho's Chocolatey was definitely better, far more aroma and more complex flavors. (I wonder how much freshness has to do with the aroma and flavor of chocolate, because I'm pretty sure the Tcho was made more recently than the Lake Champlain.
I hadn't heard of TCHO, but found myself stopping there on Saturday pulled in by an incredibly strong smell of chocolate wafting over the Embarcadero as I walked by on the sidewalk 200 feet away.
The inside of the store was not the source of the chocolate incense, it was, they said, the manufacturing going on in the larger pier building.
The chocolate is all dark (bitter or bitter-sweet) and seems to be very high quality. I'll have to drop by again for a more in-depth study when not accompanied by my chocophobic brother.