While we’re living in a city again, we thought we should try to explore not just city life, but life particular to Seattle. There are the touristy attractions, to be sure, like the 7-block long Monorail and the iconic Space Needle, which has its own Web cam, by the way. But around the corner from a lesser known peculiarity of town, the Fremont Troll, is a chocolate factory. There was no way I would miss a chance to play in Wonka’s workplace.
Okay, it wasn’t exactly like that. Theo Chocolates is one of only 15 bean-to-bar chocolate makers in the United States, the other chocolate companies were disparagingly called “melters,” because they buy chocolate already culled from the cacao pods and seeds.
I was still looking for the Oompa Loompas while our tour guide told us about Theo’s fair trade practices in Madagascar, Costa Rica, and Venezuela. She passed around buckets of chipped chocolates, asking if we could taste the terroir effect in the soil, like people do for wine. I didn’t parse those out very well, but I did get the endorphin buzz from eating chocolate.
Theo’s crushes down fermented cacao seeds after they’ve been shelled out of the larger pods and dried. This sounds a lot cleaner than it really is, but I appreciate that anything fermented is wildly unclean and that human bodies are okay with that. Huge bags of dried beans are brought to the factory in Fremont, where they are crushed up, ground down, and turned into all darknesses of chocolate. Theo’s even sells pound bags of its chocolate nibs, which are the seed shells themselves, and wow, they are the tastiest 100 percent cacao I’ve ever eaten. We purchased some after the tour and I’m going to try making brittle with them. They’re high in antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, so they’re similar to nuts without having any actual nut-ness to them.
For $6 we got to hear all about the process of making chocolate and see some of the 50 employees of the company, who have taken over an old brewery for their operation. We also got to eat all the chocolate we wanted, which, as it turns out, wasn’t much because I can’t get all that greedy toward a little company, especially when the staff are all so darn friendly. And of course we bought half our weight in chocolate at the store after the tour. Good times.
By the way, a Hershey’s chocolate bar only has 10 percent cacao in it. All the rest is filler. Yikes.