As tree-to-bar chocolate makers, To'ak draws heavily from the techniques and tradition of both winemakers and whisky distilleries. As with wine, the flavor characteristics of dark chocolate vary according to the soil and climate in which the cacao was grown. At To’ak, they make their chocolate to express the land and weather idiosyncrasies of each specific year.
To’ak was born from a rainforest conservation project that co-founder Jerry Toth started in Ecuador in 2007. Through his nonprofit foundation Third Millennium Alliance (TMA), he helped create the Jama-Coaque Ecological Reserve, which currently protects over 560 hectares (1,400 acres) of tropical forest along the coastal mountain range. It was here that he began cultivating cacao trees and making chocolate by hand in a thatched bamboo house secluded in the middle of the forest.
Part of their technique is the matter of applying barrels or other aging vessels in combination with Time. As they've learned from whisky makers, about 70% of the flavor of a well-aged whisky is derived from the barrel in which it was aged. Extractable flavor compounds in the barrel are what give the whisky its defining features. To’ak is the first tree-to-bar chocolate maker that comprehensively applies this principle to chocolate.
In the middle of each To’ak chocolate bar is a single roasted cacao bean, which co-founders Carl and Jerry hand-select themselves. "We recognize there is a tendency to forget that chocolate is ultimately derived from the fruit of a tree. It is our wish to share with connoisseurs the opportunity to taste the true source of chocolate and its most fundamental element—the cacao bean itself. Although the bean inevitably expresses some of its inherent bitterness, it also reveals the more robust, unprocessed elements of its essential flavor, with a rich nutty undertone. We believe that tasting the actual cacao bean is a crucial step toward the understanding of chocolate from a deeper perspective."