theo chocolate – seattle, wa

Can you guess what my absolute favorite part of Seattle was?!  Ok, well, maybe not my absolute favorite part, but it was a pretty good bonus!  On Friday, we visited and toured Theo Chocolate!

Theo Chocolate is located in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle.  It is a trendy neighborhood with fun restaurants and shops, including my favorite Homegrown.

We entered into their lobby where they have samples of and sell a variety of their chocolates, including chocolate bars, truffles, sipping chocolate, etc.

Lots of samples, but we waited for the tour.

After checking everything out, we headed downstairs to learn about chocolate and tour their facilities.  We were armed with hairnets!

We learned a lot about chocolate growing and making throughout the tour.  I already knew a lot of the information from reading Naked Chocolate by David Wolfe and Shazzie (see post here), but it was interesting to learn about the process that Theo uses.

Theo Chocolate is the only organic, fair trade, bean-to-bar chocolate factory in the United States.  They use only organic and fair trade ingredients, including the extra ingredients that go into some of their chocolates, like hazelnuts and ginger.

They buy from the chocolate growing region, which surrounds the equator.  Many of their chocolate bars only use chocolate from one specific region, while others use a mix.

What does Theo mean?  Theo comes from the Greek name of the Cacao tree – Theobroma Cacao, Food of the Gods.  Theobromine promotes happiness in people!

Their chocolate is delivered to the factory as cacao beans,

and they start the process completely from scratch.

Backing up a bit…cacao pods grow on trees.

When they turn pretty colors, the pods are ready to be picked.  It is imperitive that they are picked right away, otherwise the beans inside start to rot.

(Source)

Once the pods are pried open, they reveal a white gel-like substance surrounding each bean.

(Source)

The covered beans are then thrown into a barrel and left to ‘rot’, or ‘ferment’.  Skipping this step, causes chocolate to be bitter and unedible.  So, fermenting helps the beans (just like wine and beer!). 🙂

Once the beans have fermented, the leftover get is washed away and the beans are shipped to their various chocolate making locations, including to Theo.

They are shipped in bags, but once at the factory, each bag is sorted threw to make sure the beans are good and washed.  Once they pass the test, the process of making chocolate begins!

D.R. = Dominican Republic

They are roasted here.

Then transfered to the Winnower which seperates the husks from the nibs.  The nibs can then be used as chocolate.

Cacao bean husks

And, Cacao Nibs

Next, the nibs head to the stone mill to get crushed into a paste.

All of the ‘bad paste’ gets dumped out before the paste heads to the mixer.

The mixer is where sugar and/or milk powder is added (for milk chocolate).  Then it heads through the refiner and the conche to minimize the sugar and reduce any acidity.

The chocolate stays in the holding tank until it is tranferred to the tempering machine, which is a very important step!  It binds the butter and solids together.  Then, one of two employees adds any additions and pours the chocolate into molds.

Our next stop, the kitchen where we got to sample lots of goodies!

An employee is making their graham cracker here to be included in the Big Daddy bar.

Everything that goes into their bars and confections is made in their own kitchen.  All of the ingredients are organic as well!

This was made from chocolate scraps.

Theo makes all sorts of chocolate from dark chocolate to milk chocolate.  Some favorites are Chai Tea, Chile Dark, Hazelnut Crunch, Cacao Nib Crunch.  They are all delicious!

We had a fantastic time on the tour learning more about chocolate and the chocolate farmers, along with how Theo chocolate is actually made.  It makes me feel good about buying their chocolate!

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