TCHO Chocolate, part 2: magical machines, mysterious molecules.

Today on Boing Boing tv, Xeni and Pesco dive deeper into the magical chocolate factory founded by a NASA software developer.

In this installment of BBtv's 3-part series on TCHO Chocolate, we learn more about the hacked-together, home-tinkered machines and high-tech wizardry that keep the factory running. The philosophy is "scrappy, not crappy," as founder Timothy Childs explains.

TCHO's R&D lab contains such diverse components as Space Shuttle tape, a modded RONCO turkey oven, stone grinders used in Indian restaurants, and deconstructed space heater parts from the local hardware store.

Next, we zoom in to the molecular-level science behind this most delicious confection. Science buffs, rejoice! This episode is as fun for your eyes and brain as the "obsessively good" chocolate is for your mouth -- Polymorph fun for the whole family. Warning: this episode is NSFC (not safe for chocoholics).

Previously on Boing Boing tv:
* TCHO, part 1: chocolate origins.

Related: read a feature about TCHO by David Pescovitz in the current issue of MAKE Magazine, Timothy and the Chocolate Factory.

Here are some iPhone snapshots from Xeni on Flickr: TCHO, Boing Boing tv.

(Special thanks to Amy Critchett, and Wayne & Breanna)

About Xeni Jardin

Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email:
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14 Responses to TCHO Chocolate, part 2: magical machines, mysterious molecules.

  1. J4rH34d says:

    Download video link broken?

    It keeps coming back to this page:

  2. Xeni Jardin says:

    Hey, super sorry about that — will be fixed shortly, meanwhile here’s the url for that file:

  3. liquide says:

    Chococat says yum!

    I love the dramatic music and video editing, fun fun!

  4. byronba says:

    That was amazing!
    What *is* that music? I love it!

  5. Rick says:

    Why ds ths lv n ftrtst f dlbrt, cntrvd hyp?

    In a time when unemployment is rising and manual, artisanal work is devaluing around the world, these people are taking a traditional Third World confection, an erstwhile holy sacrament, and trying to build an oh-so-sophisticated gleaming, spotless, sterile lab where machines supposedly do everything, and the owners observe things remotely through a texture-mapped 3D interface (in itself a rather goofy and not especially useful flourish). There is no question, of course, that sexy videos hosted on boing boing will raise the chic-level of this business to truly dizzying heights.

    I have never been a fan of Silicon Valley wonder-boy chic, and this project oozes (like chocolate) with it. It is pretentious and glib, and like the dotcom boom from whence it came, glosses over cause and consequence, utility and value, and sees nothing beyond the shiny new sexy exterior. Why not have human artesans make the chocolate? Surely that would guarantee serendipitous discoveries and subtle nuance that a humanless environment cannot. Does anyone believe that truly great wine, or bread, or pastry, or paintings, or music, or literature can be made this way?

    Implicit in the project is that a final, perfected formula has been discovered, and an array of machines will faithfully reproduce it forever and ever, preventing its corruption by fallible human operators. As Xeni points out, they have even “encrypted” the recipe in a manner of speaking, thus protecting the treasured secret, or at least boosting its mystique. That’s not what cooking is about. That’s not what art, or subtlety, or nuance are about. This ladies and gentlemen, is what McDonald’s and Coca Cola are about. Bogus secret formulae fed into industrial equipment with as little skilled human intervention as possible, preferably none. TCHO and boing boing are engaged in hyping up a relatively commonplace business model. They have brought the race to the bottom to the art of chocolate making. We are informed that theirs is a “scrappy” factory, and that they made this for $12, that for $2000, and that the commercial version would have cost $20,000. That I can appreciate and admire, but it does not overcome my core misgivings.

    No doubt TCHO chocolate is good, perhaps even especially good. The fact of the matter, carefully avoided and implicitly contradicted by TCHO, is that making good chocolate is an art that has been mastered by many, many people and organizations through the past five centuries. Some are better than others, but in my experience those who have created chocolate by hand in mom and pop shops, without great pretense and with the constant variance and magic that comes with all things hand made, have been the best.

    Next month I’ll be in Oaxaca, Mexico, and while I’m in the city of Oaxaca I’ll make a point of going to the cacao mills downtown and have them make me some of the real thing. Or better yet, take a jitney out to San Juan Tlacolula and have some old Mixtec woman pound some out by hand on her molcajete.

  6. Bledsoefilms says:

    @ RICK: Okay, so, a lot to cover. I’ll try to be concise.

    In a time when streaming internet video is plagued with gratuitous frivolity, where there are some who attempt to inject some thought into their work without resorting to the cliche uses of scantly clad women and little furry animals, it’s good to know that we will never be without the ostentatiously verbose minority.

    While I say this partly tongue in cheek, it is important to note that Boing Boing has not and will never allow itself to be exploited as a corporate fluffer. You can have my word on that.

    In regard to TCHO’s integrity with respect of the indigenous origins of cacao, I would suggest you watch all episode in this series before you presume to proclaim that the emperor has no clothes. TCHO works hand in hand with each village to ensure that A- their growing techniques are optimal, B- that absolutely no slave labor is involved (as almost 90% of the cacao harvested utilizes slave labor), and C- that a portion of the profits goes directly back to the village so that the true artisans are able to bear (literally) the fruits of their labor. They make a special effort to reach out to farmers who are unable to participate in the fair trade initiative, since in order to do so, you must be involved in a fair trade co-op.

    Furthermore, TCHO’s implementation of surveillance cameras into every nook and cranny of the factory (and thusly minimizing the workers needed) is actually part of a grander scheme to make the factory public so that anyone can come to the factory and see exactly how the chocolate is made from bean to bar. They’ll even be encouraged to participate in the process. Their overall goal is to attain absolute transparency, which is exactly what this series is aiming to do.

    The traditional forms of making chocolate that are a major part of Oaxaca’s economy should always be cherished. However, I think it’s a little unfair criticize the “wonder boy” mentality of using particle physics and quantum technology- an art in and of itself- to advance the way mass producers think about the production of one of the globes most treasured and delectable treats.

    But, as always, all opinions are greatly appreciated. 🙂

    Derek Bledsoe
    Segment Producer, BBtv

  7. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Rick: Because you’re an enormous poseur?

    It’s just a thought.

  8. Rick says:

    A poseur? Perhaps. I make no special claims for myself. Maybe I am just some poor schmuck posting random pointless rants, I won’t contend that. I certainly applaud TCHO if they are indeed returning wealth to the cacao growers, that certainly is an urgent and noble deed. Nevertheless, there is a lot to rub one the wrong way in these videos, and in the underlying schtick at TCHO.

    I’ll buy some and try it, and when the factory opens to the public I’ll visit it. Take my diatribes at face value, but don’t just gloss over them. I and many, many other boing boing readers know hype when we see it.

  9. Rick says:

    “contend” -> “contest,” above

  10. Xeni Jardin says:

    @Derek (who is BBtv’s segment procuer), +1 to all of that.

    @Rick: Sir, you are a douche. Seriously, I’m not gonna tackle your comments in detail because everything you’ve said is wrong. You’re here to fling poo at something produced with sincerity and enthusiasm, and that is classic internet bully behavior. If you have something constructive to say, do come back when you’ve changed your attitude, but otherwise: bugger off. You’re wasting my pixels.

  11. Bledsoefilms says:

    @ RICK

    I appreciate your reconsideration. Despite Xeni’s assertion, I’m not ready to cry “douche.” Despite the disagreement, it’s refreshing to see an audience that keeps their intermediaries accountable. Keep it up, more to come.

    Derek Bledsoe
    Segment Producer, BBtv

  12. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Rick, if you’re calling this hype, then you don’t know hype when you see it.

    Take my diatribes at face value, but don’t just gloss over them.

    I tell you in all earnestness that so far, your diatribes don’t have much face value. Anyone can say hype and schtick to anything. You could generate as much meaning by using a spam remailer and randomly saying hype and schtick to the world. (Some days, I look at online forums and think this must already have happened.) For good measure, you could throw in lame, boring, wanna-be, sucks, and lol, which are also big favorites.

    It would be different if you had something to back up your assertion. Do you? Any research, privileged information, expertise, photographs, careful analysis? Anything? Because otherwise, all you’ve got to go on is this —

    I and many, many other boing boing readers know hype when we see it.

    –which is, for ghod’s sake, a variant of “The Lurkers Support Me in E-Mail.”

  13. funkfunkfunction says:

    I’d like to preface my comment by saying that I am a daily reader of boingboing and enjoy both the technological savvy political perspective and the childlike enthusiasm displayed for covering cool shit, but the man (Rick) has a point.

    Optimism, boundless faith in technology, and a tendency to achieve excellent sizzle whilst often falling short in steak are all pretty well documented aspects of the “Silicon Valley wonder-boy chic” Rick mentioned. Boingboing itself is very much a product of dot-com culture, and is hardly immune to being caught up in its dreamy enthusiam; though as I prefaced it is also part of the reason I enjoy it. This piece and its subject have plenty of gloss: sexy product, sexy hacked together machines, and if a bit isn’t punchy enough on its own you can always add Carlos Castenade visuals to keep the readers ADD at bay.

    As to the product itself, the predisposition to remove as much human influence as possible, that is to ‘compute’ the chocolate, is again very silicon-valley-dot-com. The assumption is that if can only reduce the process to series of equations THEN we can have a perfect product. I personally do not feel that is true, but to some people it may be. To continue with the wine analogy used in the third video, someone who like a highly scientifically monitored single varietal Napa Cab over a classic, traditionally produced Bordeaux does not enjoy a better or worse wine, they just have a very different palette.

    Maybe Rick didn’t communicate his points expertly, but to call him out for wasting your pixels and telling him he’s a douche is very, very petty. As a group of people ostensibly interested in freedom and transparency dissension should not only be tolerated but encouraged, how else will you know if you’re fucking up? A troll is a troll but pretty clearly, Rick was not a troll.


  14. Xeni Jardin says:

    @#13 funkfunkfunction:

    to remove as much human influence as possible, that is to ‘compute’ the chocolate, is again very silicon-valley-dot-com. The assumption is that if can only reduce the process to series of equations THEN we can have a perfect product

    Yeah, only that’s not what these guys are doing at all. I don’t know if you had a chance to watch the videos in entirety yet, but the point here seems to be using science and smarts to create a better product, and make better use of human intelligence and labor, all the way from the crop to the bar. The stuff tastes great, what they’re doing is interesting and innovative, we thought it was an interesting story. The notion that the TCHO folks are trying to reduce this to a totally automated process with no human sensory intelligence in the mix is just misinformed.

    As for Rick, I called him a douche because he was being a douche. We like having constructive conversations with people here at BB/BBtv, even when there are disagreements. That wasn’t what happened here. But he’s welcome to return in a better mood, and as you can see, his comments stand visible, so all is well with peace and justice in blogistan.

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