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Robert dog-eared an Economist article for me entitled, “ A Start-up Innovates in an Unexpected Field.” The article focuses on a small company called Tcho whose unique approach involves making the chocolate-making process more sophisticated. Tcho also intends to simplify ways to quantify benchmarks of fine chocolate. The company’s founder, Mr. Childs, has created “ways to analyze and grade beans, and a six-segment ‘flavor wheel’ to map out their natural aromas. Using a variety of jury-rigged spice grinders, heaters, and temperature sensors, he has worked out how to get cocoa beans to reveal their complex flavors and to get chocolate to solidify evenly.”

After reading the article and checking out Tcho’s website, I am unsure whether theirs is a good or bad system for expanding chocolate horizons. Will this new system and best practices targets homogenize chocolate to an unfortunate degree? (The checkboxes on their packaging, for example, look suspiciously like Starbucks’s cups . . .) The Tcho creators hope to spread their ideas and technology in “an ‘open source’ fashion to other growers. Beans will be turned into chocolate on Tcho’s elaborate production line, which is being used as a test-bed for remote video-monitoring of industrial processes by researchers at Fuji Xerox in Palo Alto.” Am I just getting wrapped up in the romance of a provincial process of small batches and unique flavors in every bar? I’m reluctant to view this innovation as having entirely positive effects.

My opinion of how a Tcho-like system could negatively effect the chocolate industry: small farmers could be squeezed out in a survival of the fittest; unique chocolate-makers could be forced to comply with a streamlined “six-segment flavor wheel”; prices might increase; and we could end up with bland chocolate in the end.

My opinion of how a Tcho-like system could positively effect the chocolate industry: I could be missing the point and this could actually be a way of highlighting/enhancing unique flavors and methods of individual chocolatiers; this could actually give us better chocolate; it could improve life for small farmers if wealthier bean buyers provide them with better technology; and the public’s interest in chocolate could increase through exposure.


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