To’ak, and its founders Jerry Toth and Carl Schweizer, are on a mission.
The luxury chocolate company is working to transform the way the world experiences dark chocolate, elevating its making and tasting to the level of vintage wine and aged whisky.
To’ak’s co-founder Jerry Toth moved to Ecuador in 2006, where he co-founded a rainforest conservation foundation called Third Millennium Alliance. The forest preserve that Toth co-founded is in the Ecuadorian province of Manabí.
As part of his conservation work, Toth spent several years cultivating an organic fruit tree orchard that features cacao trees interplanted with more than 50 different species of tropical fruit trees. Secluded in the middle of the forest, Toth began making chocolate by hand.
After years of honing his passion, Toth linked up with co-founder Schweizer and fourth-generation Ecuadorian cacao grower Servio Pachard. They formed a partnership with 14 cacao growers in the remote valley of Piedra de Plata, where some of the last-known pure Nacional trees still survive. To’ak’s chocolate is highly terroir-driven and, in some cases, it is aged like whisky. Each bar is presented in a handcrafted Spanish Elm wood box that has the individual bar number engraved on the back. The box includes proprietary tasting utensils, along with a 116-page booklet that tells the story of its provenance and provides a guide to dark chocolate tasting. Editions are strictly limited, typically to as few as 100 bars.
Toth answers questions below.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?
I don’t really use the word “candy” to describe dark chocolate, but assuming that dark chocolate qualifies for this question, my answer is easy: single-origin Ecuadorian dark chocolate from To’ak.
What’s the last cool thing you saw online?
An animation of how smoke from forest fires is moving up through the state of California.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
What issues concern you most about the confectionery industry and why?
It is getting increasingly difficult for cacao growers to make a living through cacao farming, owing to the low prices paid for cacao, which is ultimately tied to the low prices people are willing to pay for chocolate.
What’s the last book you’ve read?
“How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence” by Michael Pollan.
What is your pet peeve?
Paying for something in cash and getting pennies back for change.
If given the chance to choose anyone, with whom would you like to collaborate?
An obscure but talented film director by the name of Ciro Guerras, whom I’ve never met but I greatly admire his film “Embrace the Spirit.” I’ve written a screenplay for a film that I would like him to direct.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.” -Hunter S. Thompson
What excites you most about your job?
I get to spend (some of my) days outside in the wooded hillsides of coastal Ecuador farming cacao, surrounded by beauty and color and life.