Theo Chocolate Factory Tour – Fremont, Seattle
Posted Tuesday 15 November 2011on:
‘Have you done the Theo Chocolate Factory Tour?’ This is a frequently asked question in the ten months I’ve been living in Seattle. Now I can answer yes! I was in the Fremont neighbourhood for the Momofuku Milk Bar event with Christina Tosi at Book Larder so I scheduled in the Theo Chocolate Factory Tour.
Located at a quiet corner in a heritage brick building, the factory is fronted by a retail store.
Perfumed with chocolate, the bright and spacious room tempted chocolate lovers at every table and on every shelf. Pretty displays of chocolate bars were interspersed with plates and bowls of tasting shards. The seasonal bars were at the entrance with festive flavours of gingerbread spice, nutcracker toffee and peppermint stick.
Coral coloured ribbons and pastel yellow paper cranes draped branches where boxes of salted caramels were stacked.
Whimsical drawings are printed on the covers of the fantasy bars.
An assortment of exotic flavours included chai tea, bread and chocolate, fig, fennel and almond, and coconut curry. The coconut curry had strong spices with a sweet coconut finish.
Tins of sipping chocolate should be a pantry staple and box sets such as the colourful Theo Classic Library make for a generous gift.
Ivory pedestals in the glass counter accentuated the rich colours and patterns of ganache.
Each ganache is identified by its unique decoration.
I stretched the net over my hair as we were seated in the presentation room. The guide for our small group was enthusiastic and friendly. She had a series of laminated photos of cacao trees, pods and beans as she spoke about the cultivation and harvest of cacao. Cacao pods grow on both the trunks and branches of the trees. Fresh cacao beans are pale and encased in pulpy flesh.
Seventy per cent of the world’s cacao is farmed in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. She described the equator as the ‘chocolate belt’. It is a labour intensive crop and yield to chocolate ratio is low.
Our guide explained the difference between a chocolate maker and a chocolate melter. Theo Chocolate is one of seventeen chocolate makers in the United States where cacao beans are purchased and made into chocolate. Named after the botanical name of the cacao, theobroma, Theo Chocolate is both organic and fair trade certified.
A flowchart of the ‘method of true chocolate making’ detailed the machine and purpose of each step of the process. Many of the machines are vintage and imported from Europe. The factory has the capacity to produce 26,000 bars of chocolate in 24 hours.
‘The destoner cleans the exterior of the beans.’
‘The roaster removes humidity and develops flavour. The winnower separates the husks from the nibs.’
Chocolate is piped from machine to machine, transporting it from paste to mixer and refiner, and tempering to cooling.
After the chocolate is tempered, ‘inclusions are added’ and poured by hand into the depositer where moulds set the chocolate into bars.
The busy kitchen was piping ganache and caramels as we nibbled on sample sized Chinese five spice, fig fennel and rum raisin ganache. These contrasted sharply with the ninety one per cent cacao we tasted which was intensely bitter.
I left on a sugar high, thanks Theo Chocolate for a sweet experience!