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Chocolate company brings high-tech factory to remote cocoa farms

San Francisco's Tcho is bringing "appropriate technology" to cocoa farms so that farmers can taste and improve their products.

Louis Rossetto, CEO Tcho Larry Magid

Tcho, a San Fransisco-based chocolate company, gets its cocoa beans from farmers in Peru, Ghana, and other countries. Although many of the families there have been growing cocoa beans for generations, some have never actually tasted chocolate, much less the products made from their own crops. Aside from not being able to enjoy the fruits of their own labor, they have no way to directly understand the relationship between their growing techniques and the final product.

Tcho has solved the problem by bringing the factory to the farm. Using what co-founder Louis Rossetto calls "appropriate technology," the company sets up "flavor labs" on farms in the developing world using about $8,000 worth of equipment consisting of a Macintosh computer, an off-the-shelf-grinder, a roaster that uses a hair dryer as a heat source, and other equipment that enables farmers and technicians to turn raw beans into chocolate. That way the farmers can get a better sense of what their product will taste like to consumers. That process, according to Rossetto, helps the farmer know which beans to pick and how best to process them.

If Louis Rossetto's name sounds familiar, some may remember him as co-founder of Wired Magazine. Also, Tcho was the subject of a CNET story,slideshow, and video in June 2009.

Larry spoke with Rossetto at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco.


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