The chocolate tour
I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Seattle, but because I was there for a wedding, I didn’t do a lot of sightseeing or touring. However, I did manage to tour a chocolate factory, which was awesome.
We visited Theo Chocolate, an artisan chocolate company based in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. Theo hasn’t been around all that long; the company was established in 2006. As soon as you step inside, you can smell chocolate — visitors are warned that if they’re wearing strong perfume, they might be asked to leave. (When we walked around Fremont after the tour, we could still smell chocolate. I think every neighborhood should have a chocolate factory.)
Before the tour, we were given an overview of what Theo does and what goes into making chocolate. Our tour guide was very good, and I enjoyed listening to him, but what makes this portion of the tour particularly fun are the free chocolate samples that are periodically handed out. I sampled a variety of dark and milk chocolates, all of which were pretty good. We learned about the cocoa bean, and how it comes from big, colorful pods, and about the process of opening up the pods to expose the beans, which are eventually fermented and dried. Theo purchases fair trade, organic chocolate beans from different countries, including Ecuador and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
After the talk, we headed into the factory itself, which we observed the plant from a glassed-in room. (The plant itself is pretty hot — a bit like a chocolate sauna.) Here I was particularly entertained by Willy Wonka-ish signs labeling the equipment, such as the pipe labeled “Chocolate Pipeline.” I’d like to have a chocolate pipeline in my office! From the factory floor, we visited the kitchen where staff make delicious confections; I sampled a chocolate confection made with mint leaves, and it was amazing.
My appetite for chocolate is pretty close to boundless, and so I was delighted to discover that the store, which is where the tour ends, provides a copious amount of free samples. I sampled spicy chocolates made with chili, and caramel chocolate, chocolates with fig. It made for a pretty good lunch, I have to say.
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