From bean to bar at the Theo Chocolate factory
“Now take a deep breath as you enter because it smells REALLY good.” Our guide had just opened the door to the production room. And she was right. The intense, sweet aroma of cocoa beans filled the air of Theo’s Seattle factory. Happy workers tended to the mid century German machines that roasted, mixed and molded the chocolate into perfect rectangles. Chocolatiers in the confection kitchen created delicate treats with tempting ingredients like Meyer lemons and ghost chilies.
As our guide led us through the process of creating chocolate from cocoa beans and just a few key ingredients, we were encouraged to taste several types of chocolate, from 85% dark to salted almond milk chocolate in order to compare their subtle and not-so-subtle flavours. And then we were offered more samples of their lovingly prepared caramels and confections in the kitchen. If that wasn’t enough, the factory store had yet more samples to tempt us (and our wallets).
Theo started out in 2006 as North America’s first bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer and has grown into a successful example of a socially responsible company. All of their chocolate is certified fair trade through Fair for Life, ensuring that workers are paid a fair wage and have good working conditions. They also boast organic and non-GMO certifications. Talking to the smiling tour guides and watching the (sometimes dancing) factory workers made me love Theo’s story even more.
Fun chocolate facts:
• Theobroma cacao (cocoa tree) is latin for “food of the gods”
• It takes 2-4 cocoa pods to create one chocolate bar
• Cocoa beans go through a fermentation process before roasting
• The darker the chocolate, the more antioxidants it contains and the better it is for you
The Theo Chocolate Factory is located in the colourful Fremont neighbourhood of Seattle. It’s open for tours daily, but if you’re on a tight schedule it’s best to book ahead.