Meet the Maker: A Conversation with TCHO

Meet the Maker: A Conversation with TCHO

What’s the story behind TCHO?

TCHO was born nearly 15 years ago out of a shared obsession to reimagine the world of chocolate from the ground up. Curiosity ruled our every move as we set out to rethink every step of the chocolate-making process and bring tools and resources directly to our farmer partners. The bridge from our founding to the present day is Brad Kintzer, our Chief Chocolate Maker. An expert taster and industry leader in cacao sensory analysis, Brad has led TCHO's chocolate-making for over a decade and has pioneered new systems allowing us to co-create better cocoa with our farmer partners. The heart of our efforts to reimagine the chocolate industry is our TCHO Source program, led by our Director of Sustainability and Strategic Sourcing, Laura Sweitzer.


What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about the chocolate industry, specifically ethical and responsible sourcing?

When we started out, we discovered quickly that there were many challenges to sourcing great cacao consistently. Most cacao farmers aren’t paid enough to make a decent living, let alone invest in their cacao crops and processes such as new drying beds, fermentation boxes, lab equipment, and more. Many cacao farmers have never tasted chocolate, even fewer have tasted chocolate made from their own cacao beans. The lack of tools, know-how, and shortage of price incentives are the main barriers to increasing the quality of cacao.


Quality cacao and ethical labor is at the center of everything you do. How has that impacted the way the brand has developed and continues to operate?  

TCHO Source is our unique program for partnering with cacao producers and research institutions worldwide to create a better cacao bean, because better cacao means better chocolate. And we're not just talking about the quality and taste of the cacao beans; we're talking about how they're grown, harvested, roasted, and moved along every point along the supply chain. We care about the people behind cacao, from the farmer to the roaster and all the communities in-between. Through TCHO Source, we establish partners at every step to co-create better cacao for the benefit of the entire chocolate industry.


Has anything surprised you about your journey/success?  

The power of relationships and true connections is paramount. In a season where supply chain challenges abound, our long term supply chain relationships are heroes. Connecting with TCHO chocolate fans on our weekly tours and sharing gems about how TCHO chocolate is made continues to be a favorite way we connect with TCHO fans.


You've recently made the transition to all vegan products. What’s on the horizon for TCHO or what do you hope to do next?

We are a flavor driven company that is always looking to improve our relationships and the sustainability of our products. In 2021 we certified as a B Corp and  adopted the B Corp framework to set goals and rigorously track our social and environmental impact. We have our sights set on using less packaging and compostable packaging for more of our products in 2023. 


Tell us about one thing on your mind right now either environmentally or socially.

So many things! We just roasted Organic Peruvian cacao beans at a roaster that is cooperatively owned by farmers. This is an exciting way to collaborate with our supply chain and invest more money into cocoa farming communities.


Want to explore more from TCHO? Check out their collection of dairy-free chocolate here.

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