Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sandy and the Chocolate Factory

Apologies to Willy Wonka... but I have the very best Son In Law ever! Knowing my love for chocolate, he decided to make an appointment for a tour of the Theo Chocolate Factory here in Seattle and to go with me... that's sweet, isn't it?

As you will see on their website, their mission statement is "Proud to be the only Organic, Fair Trade, Fair for Life certified Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Factory in North America." (Like many public relations and mission statements, this is their statement, and I do not know if it is completely factual. There are lots and lots of chocolatiers in this area and in North America... can they really be the ONLY one?)

Isn't it amazing that there are people all around the world working together for the good of all concerned, and mostly what we hear about is those who aren't? Like the naughty children who get attention while the well-behaved ones seem to disappear into the background...
Last week for blueberries, but not beer...

But due to a variety of things, we decided to cancel it until my next trip out here. I have now put it on the Must-Do things when you visit Seattle. In looking at their website I learned so much about chocolate and growing the cacao and the importance of keeping your chocolate properly cooled - it's definitely not like those chocolate things you pick up in a rush which I will not dignify by naming. That would be like trying to compare a well-aged wine to something inside a paper bag.

The qualities of fine chocolate are just like those of fine wine... and like wine, when you are going to taste chocolates, there are some things to do first:
1) Make sure you have eaten something ahead of time. If you are taste-testing chocolates and you are hungry, you will gobble it and miss the fine nuances that going slowly will allow.
2) Not a good idea to have complicated foods beforehand... garlic and onion linger to affect the taste of chocolate. (I was such an uneducated heathen before that I thought that is why you ate the chocolate - to get rid of the onion after-taste!)
3) Have a pitcher of room temperature water and a plain cracker (saltines without the salt, for example) nearby to wash out your mouth between tastes. (Wonderful! As this suggests, you are going to have lots of different kinds of chocolate to test and taste... sounds like a really fun way to have a party, doesn't it?)

Did you know that chocolate can have a temper? (I have a temper tantrum when I cannot get good chocolate - LOL!) "Temper" (from the Theo websiterefers to the crystalline structure the cocoa butter molecules form in the chocolate when cooling from a melted state (during production) to a solid form. The cocoa butter takes on a different structure based on the temperature at which it’s cooled, resulting in a chocolate that is soft, greasy and spotted (at the wrong cooling temp) or hard with a nice shiny, even surface (at the right cooling temp)." 

The proper temperature at which to eat chocolate is at 'room' temperature - about 75 degrees F; not pulled out of a bag from a hot car, or grabbed from the refrigerator, or horrors-of-horrors, eating the one that sat in your rucksack for three weeks being heated and cooled depending on where you were.

Like tasting wine, tasting chocolate requires some patience, some time, and plenty of chocolate options. I honestly think this tour helped to make me more of a chocolate connoisseur and further justifies my philosophy that good chocolate is good for me/you. The antioxidants and the theobromine, a mild stimulant similar to caffeine, are reportedly beneficial. But this is only in chocolate with careful processing because if it is overworked, all those benefits disappear. But Theo Chocolates take it another step by saying that eating and buying their products improve things worldwide... now that is a great reason to eat their chocolate!
Mt. Rainier in August on a particularly clear day...

All this information was gained from the website and you can read the details there. They also have some awesome recipes using chocolate. While I missed out on the chance to be a chocolate taster, my waistline is the better for it and hopefully on my next visit I will have had plenty of sleep and can fully appreciate the tour.

NOTE: There are over 50 chocolatiers in the Seattle area... this is only one of them, so if you are coming this way, perhaps you will want to take the Pike Market Chocolate Lover's tour as well so you can sample other decadent, delicious and dreamy possibilities. You can see why I love this area, can't you?


  1. Sandy,
    I love Theo chocolate. In fact, I often take Theo chocolates as gifts when going out of state. I have never toured the factory, but I think I need to. Your post is making me crave chocolate!

    Mt. Rainier looks gorgeous! Today, we took our niece and her little son to SeaTac to fly home to Denver. As we came around Boeing Field on I-5, Mt. Rainier looked just like it does here. It was so clear and just spectacular. I have lived in Western Washington my entire life and I NEVER get tired of seeing that mountain in all of its glory.
    Carole Leigh

  2. dear sandy,

    oh, boy oh,boy!!! CHOCOLATE - it's what really floats my boat. my mouth is watering right now, but, alas, not a morsel of that fabulous stuff in the house. how lovely you will have that in-person tour to look forward to; and even nicer, what a wonderful and toughtful son-in-law you have. thanks for the tour site for theo - i think i will have to pass as it would be just too painful with no way to sate my craving, so will be sure to look it over another day. i couldn't help noticing another favorite - chimay beer! my sweet hubby gave me that same goblet that came in a gift set of the beer. LOVE IT! warm hugs, karen s.

  3. Sandy: I'm a "chocaholic"....and as I read your post, I realized your post had succeeded in turning on my cravings. It's just a Butterfinger, certainly not the decadent morsels of which you write....but it's chocolate!!

    One day, being able to see Mt. Rainier still remains on my Bucket List! Thanks for the beautiful photo.

    Hugs....from the deep south