Get a Taste Inside the ChocoVivo Chocolate FactoryBy Lesley Balla | September 12, 2013 By Lesley Balla | September 12, 2013
Welcome to the wonderfully chocolaty world of Patricia Tsai. Having started her own bean-to-bar chocolate company more than five years ago, Tsai recently opened a new ChocoVivo factory, tasting bar and retail shop in Culver City. You can watch the chocolatiers grind cocoa nibs into creamy, slightly gritty pastes, see sheets of fruit, nuts and spiced chocolates cut into bars and squares, and sit for a cup of hot or cold drinking chocolate. There isn't a chocolate river, but we think Willy Wonka would be proud.
What makes ChocoVivo chocolate so unique is the process. Tsai sources her cocoa nibs directly from a grower in Tabasco, Mexico, where they're roasted and sent to her directly. In the shop, Tsai and her staff grind the nibs into a paste similar to the way the Mayans and Aztecs did it more than 2,000 years ago. There are no fillers, additives or powders involved; no over-processing or tempering. She adds natural spices, nuts and dried fruits like blood orange and cherries, and there you have it. Simple, delicious pure dark chocolate in flavors like almond and sea salt, black sesame and goji berry, cherry and black peppercorn, coffee and vanilla bean, and blood orange and tonka bean, an ingredient so good it's illegal (but used by José Andrés and Grant Achatz).
The space is fun and bright, half a factory where you can see all the action happening, and the other half filled with items like chocolate bars, hot chocolate powders, Tsai's famous chocolate butters, and even cocoa nib necklaces. Sidle up to the bar and order a tasting - you can choose from three or six thin little squares, all packing a punch of real unadulterated chocolate - or get something from the drink bar, like an iced hot chocolate or a thick European-style sipping chocolate. For those who want the most pure way to drink your chocolate, try the 100% pure cacao with filtered water. Anyone who finishes it will be called a Mayan Warrior and probably feel like building a few pyramids.
Starting tonight, hit the ChocoVivo Frozen Hot Chocolate Social Hour, which will feature four special chocolates (simple chocolate, Shangri-la, Mayan, coffee-and-vanilla) topped with Straus organic vanilla bean ice cream. Samplings also will be available for $20 a person Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 12-15, 11 AM-9 PM; RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consider this your dessert after a burger and cocktail from The Corner Door next door or A-Frame and Waterloo & City a block away.
Tsia showed us how the chocolate magic happens. Take a look below.