It was a perfectly cloudy and drizzly Seattle day when I, along with husband Peter and brother-in-law John, made a visit to the Theo Chocolate Factory. I had been eagerly anticipating this day since planning our visit to Seattle -now it was here!
Joe Whinney, Theo’s founder, is a rock star in the world of fine, fair-trade chocolate. His vision to be the first fair-trade certified, organic chocolate maker in North America came to fruition in 2006 when the Theo factory opened in the Fremont neighborhood and had its first run of chocolate bars. Theo’s is as much about promoting social responsibility as it is about making great chocolate.
If it weren’t for a small sidewalk sign pointing the way you could easily pass by the chocolate factory housed in the historic 1905 red brick building (formerly a trolly car station and later Red Hook Brewery). Walking in we were greeted by a super-friendly staff and the delectable smell of chocolate. After donning hairnets our group was in the hands of Janet, our friendly charming tour guide determined to combine interesting educational information along with lots of delicious samples.
We learned that Theo gets its name from the Cacao tree – Theobroma Cacao, Food of the Gods. Janet engaged us in a discussion about cacao trees and their pods, the harvesting, fermentation and drying processes and the many steps in the journey that cacao undergoes to become the wonderful chocolate all of us enjoyed.
Onto the factory floor the roasters, grinders and other chocolate machines – some of them vintage – were working hard in each area. I felt like I was in the magic world of Willie Wonka! My favorite area was the kitchen where truffles, toffee and various bon bons were being finished…what envy I had!
The tour ended at the retail chocolate shop which was filled with many, many tempting choices and I left with a bag full. I loved the Curry Coconut Bar and found their 85% Chili Bar complex and satisfying. My favorite was Big Daddy, layers of gram cracker, marshmallow and burnt caramel in dark chocolate which was to die for!
My pilgrimage left me inspired and in awe of “mind-bending” chocolate that is not just satisfying and delicious but totally transparent and socially responsible from farm to consumer. One can change the world through chocolate and they have. Do not miss Theo’s tour if you ever visit Seattle!