While a silky mouthfeel is one sign of well-made chocolate, too much smoothness can sometimes, paradoxically, wear me down, making me feel like I'm been spoonfed pudding from a hospital tray. When I want a more assertive chocolate experience, there's Taza.
Based in Somerville, MA, Taza makes "Mesoamerican-style" chocolate using a blend of traditional and innovative approaches. Like those wheels of chocolate I used to buy at a Mexican market, Taza's chocolates are highly textured thanks to stone-grinding process. This leaves intact and appreciable particles of cacao and crystals of sugar in the final product--but where those grocery chocolates fall on the cement side of the grittiness scale, Taza's are pleasantly sandy.
They offer three single origin bars made from Dominican cacao, as well as a limited-edition Chiapan bar from beans grown in the Soconusco region of Mexico (what's with the "limited"? according to their website, Taza was only able to get 17 sacks of these beans). The current line-up of Chocolate Mexicano discs includes: plain, yerba mate, cinnamon, vanilla, guajillo chili, and salted almond. The discs come wrapped two to a pack and are easy to break up or grate for making hot chocolate or mole.
All of Taza's ingredients are organic and some are bioactive. They practice direct trade and maintain close relationships with their farmers. Their website spells out a host of other enviromental and community intiatives in which the company is active. Just how transparent is Taza? On the website, you can enter the batch number from your disc or bar and see photos taken during the manufacturing of that specific bar.