Taza Stone Ground Dark Organic Chocolate
In 70% & 80% 3 ounce (85g) bars

When it’s time to go high-end, wrap your mouth around the words “artisan chocolate.” Say it a few times until it rolls smoothly off your tongue.

Not so smooth? That’s okay. Try saying “Taza” instead.

Some day soon you’re going to need something small-yet-elegant to take to a dinner party, business gathering, or birthday bash. Wine can be fussy stuff (red or white? dry or sweet? chilled or breathing?) and maybe you want something that’s not alcohol for a change.

I keep a stash of nice darks around for just this moment. As I’m dashing out the door I grab a bar. Often it’s a Lindt 85%, available practically anywhere, or a Valrhona 85% from Trader Joe’s. (More on both in a future post.) A good chocolate bar is nearly universally welcome these days and dark chocolate is becoming increasingly popular.

But let’s say that this time you want something high-end, a bit showy in an understated, elegant way, something that says yes you’re comfortable on the dark side but that also stops people in their tracks because it tastes so amazing.

Taza is an excellent choice, especially for Seattlites, starting with its politics. Taza is not merely “fair” but is “direct” trade. That’s where instead of giving the money to a third-party fair trade certification agency, you buy direct from the farmer and give them the cash instead. And by “you,” of course, I mean Taza. In current thinking, “direct” trumps “fair” and that puts you on the fashionable edge of chocolate as well as giving you something to talk about when you run dry at the dinner party.

But there’s more. At the <a href=”http://www.tazachocolate.com“>Taza web site</a> you can find out how your particular batch of chocolate — the very substance you hold in your hand and now in your mouth — was made, the chocolate’s country of origin and so on. Sure, it says most of that on the packaging, but somehow it feels more immediate to go to the web site and type in the number off the wrapper. I’ve been on the web since the early days so I find this sort of nearly-personal interactive online marketing charming.

But what about the chocolate? Splendid stuff, actually. Both the 70% and 80% are excellent. The taste is complicated, layered, sweetly biting, fruity, and — you should know up front — gritty.

This is the stone-ground part, but before you twitch, I want you to think back on the Mexican chocolate you used to sneak a bite of as a child while your mum was heating the milk, the stuff with all that cinnamon and sugar, and how much fun it was to munch while waiting for the hot chocolate to be ready. Gritty, right? Not a bad gritty, right?

As grit goes, Taza is some very good grit. Somehow it makes the taste come alive in a way I admit I hadn’t expected. To make sure it wasn’t just me, I pushed the Taza 70% on two of my dark-chocolate friends. (And really, only the first bite required any pressure at all. After that the bar was gone and they wanted to know where to get more and how much. I’ll get to that in a moment.)

They both assured me the grit was good. “It makes my tongue want to explore the chocolate more” said one. “It’s like 3-d chocolate!” said the other.

And, as Taza tells us on their web site, it’s traditional. Gritty traditional stone-ground artisan chocolate.

So where to get Taza in Seattle? My first bar came from Kakao Chocolate on Westlake Ave, who then ran out. When I phoned them during business hours to see when they’d have more in stock, no one answered. (The number Yelp’s got is wrong, by the way, and the correct number is probably 206-388-5467. I say “probably” because the voice mail message is disappointingly generic.) PCC also stocks Taza, though of course you’ll pay a premium for the convenience, near eight dollars a bar.

So drop by <a href=”http://www.chocolopolis.com/“>Chocolopolis</a> in Queen Anne, at 1527 Queen Anne Ave North, 206-282-0776. Not only are they a bit cheaper than PCC, at seven and a half, but they answer their phone and are happy to chat about chocolate at fair length, which I like. Besides, they have more Taza beyond the bars, convenient when you decide it’s what you’re giving this holiday season.

When you’ve got important visitors coming into town or you’re bopping to the mansion on the hill for the eve, Taza is your chocolate. It’s elegant but casual, and wrapped in simple, tasteful solid colors.  Very Seattle.

And it’s full of socially responsible gritty traditional artisan chocolate goodness!  It really is.

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