Cocoa 2.0

Timothy Childs stops at nothing for better chocolate

Meet Timothy Childs, equal parts candy man and mad scientist.

His four-year-old company, TCHO, was among the pioneers of the quality-seeking "bean-to-bar" movement (a label he shirks for his own, "pod-to-palate").

But what's separated TCHO from the rest of the bunch is the former NASA technologist's penchant for making hi-tech gadgetry out of everyday appliances. In one fit of innovation, he managed to repurpose a Ronco turkey rotisserie oven into a cacao roaster.

But no amount of whiz-bang equipment could make up for mediocre beans. Turning his attention to his farmers, Childs (pictured) realized that most had never tasted chocolate made from their own cacao.

As a result, Childs created TCHOSource, a program that shores the gap between source and product. He outfits cacao farmers with Flavor Labs–democratized, mini chocolate factories full of jerry-rigged machinery (an Indian dal grinder/space heater mashup is used to grind cacao) that allow them to test and grade their cacao's flavor profile at each stage of production.

These elite beans then go into TCHO's four types of dark chocolate bars, each variety identified by its dominant characteristic (citrusy, fruity, nutty or chocolaty) rather than its cacao percentage. "In the end, it comes down to making the best possible tasting experience," Childs says.

And it only takes one bite of a TCHO bar to know that his obsession is worth the effort.