Pilgrimage to Theo’s Chocolate, Seattle
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 capable hands of Janet, our 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 easily engaged us in a discussion about the origin of cacao, the trees, their pods and the harvesting, fermentation and drying processes that take place at the cacao farm. (For an up close and personal look at a cacao farm and it’s harvesting process click on my post, “The Hacienda Jean Marie” here).
Onto the factory floor where we watched the roasters, grinders and other chocolate machines – some of them vintage – working hard in each area. I felt like I was in the magical world of Willie Wonka! We watched as the beans went on a fascinating journey to become a chocolate bar. My favorite area was the large, well-equipped professional kitchen where truffles, toffee and various bon bons were being finished…what envy I had! It was here that we indulged in some delectable chocolate treats.
The tour ended at the retail chocolate shop which was filled with seemingly endless 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 dipped confection was Big Daddy, layers of gram cracker, marshmallow and burnt caramel in dark chocolate. To die for!
I left 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 are. Do not miss Theo’s tour if you ever visit Seattle!