What to do about To'ak Chocolate?

Annmarie Kostyk
@annmarie-kostyk
12/17/14 02:48:48PM
15 posts

Okay my chocolate experts, what to do about To'ak Chocolate (https://toakchocolate.com). It has finally happened where someone is claiming to be something they are not in the bean to bar world. Never mind their terrible website, the questionably information on their website, the fact their website is slow and hard to navigate, and a $260 chocolate bar for your first time out is beyond insane.

I've heard through the grapevine from a handful of people at exclusive chocolate tastings that the bar is average at best. Yes, there are people who may like sub-par chocolate, so it may all be in the person tasting. However, keep in mind these are chocolate people who regularly do tastings.

I was tweeting with someone who was doing a wine tasting with the bar. I've attached a photo. Keep in mind this is NOT raw chocolate. No shine, so it obviously wasn't tempered correctly.

The wine guy I got this photo from says To'ak claims that chocolate bars get better as they age. As far as I know, bars are good for up to a year if stored properly. To claim this is absolutely ridiculous!

Now, I've been in the chocolate business for 12 years. I've read all of the books. I'm a professional chocolatier through study at Ecole Chocolat. I studied pastry at the French Pastry School with some of the best pastry and chocolate chefs in the WORLD. I've blogged and written books about chocolate. Has something changed that I don't know about?

What can we do about these guys? They are misinforming and down right lying and taking advantage. I don't like it one bit. Do we take to our blogs? A few of my chocolate expert blogging friends are all laughing at the precise things I've mentioned. Marketing only gets you so far with a bad product and misinformation.

You're feedback would be appreciated!10-B5FFfYvIMAAht8P.jpg?width=300


updated by @annmarie-kostyk: 04/09/15 11:53:44AM
Potomac Chocolate
@ben-rasmussen
12/17/14 03:19:39PM
191 posts

Hi Annmarie,

I haven't had To'ak or looked too closely into any of their claims. That being said, there are several discussions on these forums, as well as elsewhere, debating the benefits (or lack thereof) to aging chocolate. Personally, I age one of my chocolates and feel that it results in a much better flavor (the other two don't really benefit from aging). I've also spoken with another maker, who makes some of my favorite chocolate, who mentioned that one of their chocolates is aged for over a year before it is ready.

All this is to say that the claim that their bars gets better with age is not necessarily an outrageous claim.

-Ben

p.s. I agree that the bar in the photo does appear to have some tempering issues.

Jeff
@jeff
12/17/14 03:23:03PM
94 posts

We dont have to do anything except point out the truth. Eventually the reality of what they are doing will trickle down to the consumer.This IS NOKA all over again. They didnt last long either.

BUT....my mummified alapaca skin wrapped bars for $1000 each will be available soon....well....as soon as we can get the shaman down out of his ayahuasca induced trance....bugger is too high to be blessing anything right now...

Annmarie Kostyk
@annmarie-kostyk
12/17/14 03:27:45PM
15 posts

Thanks, Ben. I value your opinion. I've only heard of Schaffenberger claiming one of their bars was better with age and there was some debate about that.

Question. The chocolate that is being aged, is it tempered, molded and in bar form and then aged or made into chocolate and aged - obviously two different things.

Annmarie Kostyk
@annmarie-kostyk
12/17/14 03:28:42PM
15 posts

Hmmm. I may need a $1000 mummified alpaca skin wrapped bar. You know, for the sake of saying I spent the money on it...

Potomac Chocolate
@ben-rasmussen
12/17/14 03:30:06PM
191 posts

When I'm doing it, I'm aging it untempered in a block. In the discussions, others say they're aging tempered bars, though.

Annmarie Kostyk
@annmarie-kostyk
12/17/14 03:36:51PM
15 posts

That's what I thought. Love you and Potomac! Let me know when you have a new funding venture.

Potomac Chocolate
@ben-rasmussen
12/18/14 08:10:54AM
191 posts

Thanks Annmarie! :)

Ning-Geng Ong
@ning-geng-ong
05/27/15 01:03:08AM
36 posts

Was doing some much-delayed reading on To'ak and finally took a look at the website. Not having faced the bar or tasted it I do have to give credits to the marketing -- de-husked, roasted bean plackaged with the bar, chopsticks provided, wooden box packaging etc. I do agree with Annmarie that the navigation is a bit laggy.

Anyone else noticed that the sequence of flowering to fruiting depicted on their website is mistakenly reversed in the early stages?

Sebastian
@sebastian
05/27/15 05:58:46AM
754 posts

I've never tasted their bar, nor do i know them personally.  But some chocolate can benefit greatly from age.  I've aged bars as long as 8 years that have been fantastic.  It depends a great deal on your raw materials, how they were processed, the specifics of the packaging, and the storage temperatures.  I've also stored bars that were terrible after 2 months.

Do their bars benefit from age?  Possibly - I have no idea.  My suspiscion is neither do they.  Long live marketing.

Thomas Snuggs
@thomas-snuggs
05/27/15 09:37:07PM
23 posts

Wow!! I need to put my chocolate in a wooden box and include a book so I can charge more. I have much to learn about marketing.

Channy
@channy
05/29/15 12:43:20AM
11 posts

On the plus side, at least consumers are getting used to the idea that the price of 'fine chocolate' should be more than what is currently the price at your local supermarket. While I haven't seen or tasted the chocolate, if I made a bar worthy of charging that much I would be quite chuffed with myself. That said, I agree with Sebastian. Marketing, love it or hate it; it can really influence customers.

I hope to learn something from what they've done (even though I dont think i'll be selling bars for even half of that much). I also think that fine chocolate has a long way to go in terms of the way we look at pricing. I think that so much lack of customer knowledge means that what david-menkes mentioned is going to happen for a while. Which is a real shame. 

 

 


updated by @channy: 05/29/15 12:45:07AM
Brad Churchill
@brad-churchill
05/31/15 03:20:56AM
527 posts

Hi AnneMarie;

To be very candid with you, I think what they are doing is fabulous!  

The reason is very simple:  Their outrageous pricing and marketing causes consumers to ask questions, and as misguided as it may seem, that helps EVERYONE in the bean to bar industry who has once, if not 10,000 times, taken time to educate their customers about mass produced chocolate vs. the chocolate they MAKE right there in their shop.

A few months ago, Choklat passed the 100,000 customer mark, and in spite of being open for 7 years, being the only chocolate maker in my city of just a million people, having benefitted from tens of thousands of dollars in free media attention over the years, and having our chocolate and wine events sold out 4 nights a week for 5 months in advance on word of mouth alone, every day we STILL get people through our doors that don't know the difference, and get the spiel from me or a team member.

If To'ak garners some media attention, and helps educate consumers in the interim so I don't have to, well... GREAT!  They've told the general public that there's more to life than a KitKat bar (or 260 bars for that matter!  haha!)

Are they going to be around long enough to make a dent in the industry?  I doubt it.  Already the word is getting out that their product is medicre at best, and online reviews are certainly doing them no favours.  The orders will stop coming in soon enough.

Remember Noka a few years back?

One thing I will say for certain though:  The bean to bar chocolate industry is gaining exposure, and many customers who have been to my shop have sought out other artisans.  I know this because they come back even more loyal than before.  Recently I increased the price of my chocolate bars to $10 and up, and bumped our truffles to $2.25 each.  Not a single customer batted an eye.  In fact, when I posted the apology for the price increase on my facebook page, the overall response was, and I quote "Couldn't care less if prices go up. It's 100% worth it. "

Now, we need a $1,000 chocolate bar that actually tastes good!  Anyone out there want to give it a go?  LOL

Brad


updated by @brad-churchill: 05/31/15 03:21:53AM
TalamancaOrganica
@talamanca-organica-cacao-fine-chocolate
06/16/15 11:44:59AM
12 posts

Hola, I a TREE-to-BAR chocolate maker, meaning that I literally farm all of my own beans (roughtly a half a ton a year), and really ONLY myself, with very little outside help with exception to "harvestings and openings," where I have 1 guy help me, and only in that part of the work, picking the fruit, and cracking the pods; I am the only one who removes the beans from the pods. Then I personally ferment and dry all of my own beans. AND, I single-handedly do all the chocolate making, including tempering, molding and packaging. The word around this neck of the woods is that Talamanca Organica is the best chocolate EVER. I attribute it to the fermenting and my very fastideous practices of bean storage. I actually pride my chocolate on two points (beyond the fact that it is organic and grown in harmony with mother nature): 1. Talamanca Organica Fine Chocolate only includes two ingredients: Talamanca Organica Cacao and a small amount or organic cane sugar; 2. Talamanca Organica Cacao and Fine Chocolate is only handled by one or maybe two sets of hands through it's entire life cycle of TREE to BAR. 
After reading your story, I realize that I am completely under valuing my AMAZING chocolate bar, 60 grams, that retails at $6 a bar. Private message me if you want some affordable, amazing chocolate, and or beans.


updated by @talamanca-organica-cacao-fine-chocolate: 07/06/16 04:12:28AM

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