TCHO, San Francisco, California
At TCHO (pronounced "cho" like the first syllable of cho-co-late), Silicon Valley intersects with San Francisco's food culture in the sweetest way. Originally started by an ex-NASA engineer, the company is now helmed by the cofounders of Wired, Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe, who run it like a genuine start-up. Here, innovation and technology are key components for making chocolate: iPhone apps allow chocolate makers to control aspects of the company's "Flavor Labs" remotely, and the cloud-based database Cropster helps farmers and TCHO workers share information in real time. Customers are part of the process as well and can sign up to be beta—and taste—testers.
At TCHO's factory on Pier 17, visitors have to wear the requisite hairnets and closed-toe shoes but get to see firsthand how the square-shaped bars are made, from conching and molding to wrapping them in their distinctive packaging. Knowledgeable guides offer briefings on the company's direct-trade sourcing program and explain how the company collaborates with farmers to produce flavor-focused cacao that reflects the various soils and climates in which it's grown.
Don't Miss: TCHO's PureNotes dark chocolate bars with names based on inherent flavor profiles like Chocolatey, Fruity, Nutty, and Bright, and bonbons such as Sea Salt and Roasted Nib Caramel from budding confectioner Ryan Holmes (also look out for his latest, the Hops and Chocolate truffle).
Tour Information: Free hour-long tours start with a video presentation and run daily at 10:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Reserve tickets online.