If Willy Wonka Were A Social Activist, He’d Work For Theo

This past Monday I experienced a little taste of what heaven will be like, if I have any say over what I eat in heaven. Along with Steve, Grace and my mom, I took a tour of Theo Chocolate’s factory in Seattle. Housed in a renovated single-level brick building in the hip Fremont neighborhood, visiting Theo’s headquarters feels more like an artist’s workshop than an industrial factory.

That feeling of being around art was only enhanced as our tour guide, Rachel, walked us through the dozens of steps involved in creating the perfect chocolate bar. We learned, for example, that after workers pick the football-sized cacao fruit, the fruit has to be fermented, then the cocoa beans extracted and dried in the sun, a process that takes skill and many weeks. Theo Chocolate is the only company in the United States to boast “bean to bar” processing. They import their own cocoa beans (100% organic and fair trade!) and do in-house everything involved in creating perfect chocolate bars from roasting and grinding the beans to mixing them with only a few organic ingredients (sugar, milk, spices) to create each of their unique delectable bars. While their cocoa beans are all imported, I was impressed by how many local inputs are used including Sunshine Dairy milk, Washington-grown spearmint and artwork for the product labels from a Seattle artist, to name a few. This company is serious about sustainability.

While learning all the steps involved in crafting the perfect chocolate bar was fascinating, I have to be honest that the highlight of the tour were the many, many, MANY samples. We tried everything from bars made with nothing but cocoa and sugar (did you know cocoa from Ghana tastes like cherries but cocoa from Ivory Coast takes like nuts?) to chocolate mixed with Indian curry powder (actually tasty) to truffles infused with Earl Grey tea.

I’ve blogged before about the ethics (or lack thereof) in the chocolate industry. Theo Chocolate proves that you can treat workers well, care for the environment and make some of the highest quality chocolate around. Theo Chocolate has won numerous awards for its delightful confections, most recently the NW Source Best Chocolatier award, and been featured in magazines like O Magazine and Time, so they’re getting plenty of attention. You can find a selection of their chocolates at natural grocery stores (New Seasons, Whole Foods) and I’ll be adding a few of their bars to my site later this week as well.

Take a tour yourself next time you’re in Seattle and see what all the fuss is about!

Excuse me sir, can I please roll around on your chocolate-covered table?

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