By: Alicia Fischer, Communications @ Our Hands For Hope
We are always striving to be the fairest we can be. What does that mean exactly? In the world of Fair Trade, it means having a product, a business, and a lifestyle that contribute to the success, improvement, and equal treatment to the lives of others.
For us, being fair means justly compensating the women in Peru who create our knits. It means creating and teaching a sustainable business model for each woman to improve upon and contribute to while positively affecting their community. It also means promoting and sharing other Fair Trade companies who are doing the same thing: creating sustainable businesses that are ethically sound, setting an example for the world in helping to improve disadvantaged areas.
With that, we would like to present TCHO.
TCHO is a luxury chocolate maker in San Francisco, California that obsesses over the pure, natural flavors in chocolate.. The factory and store are located at Pier 17 along the embarcadero, and while they call San Francisco their native home, their chocolate is from Ghana, Madagascar, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, and — of course — Peru.
We had the opportunity to speak with them about the company, what Fair Trade means to TCHO, and a little more in depth about their TCHOSource program.
It is very uncommon in the chocolate business for cacao farmers and workers to be treated fairly. TCHO says that most farmers have never even tasted their own products! Instead, they harvest the beans and ship them off to their buyers without any say in the process from bean to chocolate. TCHO saw this and wanted to do things differently.
Intro TCHOSource: the way that TCHO does business with their suppliers to ensure the best possible product. This means working closely with the suppliers in each country to produce their flavor profiles as well as helping access other markets through improved product quality. TCHO didn’t just want to buy good beans; they wanted to help make the best ones.
“Fair Trade is definitely important in the cacao industry,” says Katie Gilmer, TCHOSource Manager who’s traveled to Peru and Ghana to meet with suppliers and make sure everyone’s happy. “There are so many terrible human rights abuses that’ve been documented in the industry. Fair trade is a good step moving forward against those abuses.”
Just like Our Hands for Hope, TCHO’s powerhouse suppliers are in Peru.
“Other than being a great cacao region, Peru’s economy is growing,” says Katie. “Part of it is that their government has been favorable to economic growth, they have the natural resources, and this entrepreneurial spirit in their people. Peruvians just have this drive on top of their already rich culture with food, colors, fabrics, etc.”
We agree with her there! Just like us with our knits, TCHO buys their beans directly from their country or origin, sourcing everything on their own and importing into the US. What is unique about them, however, is that they are establishing flavor labs where they source their beans. By doing this, TCHO works with the growers to do quality control throughout harvest.
“Once harvest is done there are no more adjustments you can make in processing to give the buyer what they’re looking for,” says Katie. “The flavor labs allows us to be more nimble in our cocoa production to get our optimal flavor profile. Then, we can have specific flavor profiles to differentiate quality levels for different customers. A big part of that is training people how to taste, and having them taste what they’ve made.”
TCHO is currently working to encourage other chocolate producers to use their flavor labs so that they’re producing the best product for their buyers.
“It may be more competition for us, “says Katie, “but it helps everyone in the end.”
Here’s to TCHO. A New American Chocolate company with not only a great product but who’s also serving a great purpose. Check them out at Pier 17 in San Francisco, and sign up for a free factory tour to really see what they’re all about.
TCHeers to TCHO!