Walk through the Fremont area in Seattle and you can usually tell there’s a chocolate factory nearby. A rich, chocolaty breath hangs in the air, tantalizing passersby.
It’s even more magical inside Theo Chocolate, the nation’s first organic, Fair Trade chocolate factory. The shop ethically sources its ingredients by making sure that each person handling each element is paid a fair wage. This means that cocoa farmers (who, historically, are very poor) in developing countries such as the Congo and the Dominican Republic can send their children to school, put food on the table, and pay for other needs. Theo supports sustainable farming practices, too, so the fragile, tropical ecosystems the cocoa beans grow haven’t been carelessly plowed over to make room for cocoa trees.
Beyond ethics, Theo’s chocolate, crafted from beans roasted on-site, simply tastes great. This is rare among chocolate makers, who cut corners to make cheaper chocolate by buying and melting blocks of the yummy confection. Theo’s, while complexly flavored, is simple: just cocoa, sugar, milk, and cocoa butter, plus a delightful myriad of inclusions such as hazelnuts, figs, almonds, and cherries. Plus, no additives or preservatives are mixed in.
Theo has its staple bars and confections, but they also have a rotating mix of seasonal offerings that seem to capture any period in edible form. This summer, flavors include raspberry ganache, a creamy chocolate-raspberry square with delicate, tart dehydrated raspberries sprinkled on top; basil ganache, a surprising combination that tastes like a backyard garden; cherryfest caramel, a chewy bite of tangy, cherry-infused caramel; a vegan strawberry white pepper treat crafted with fresh strawberry purée, olive oil, coconut oil, and agave nectar; and a salted licorice caramel sure to delight licorice lovers.
At the Seattle store, stock up on bouchées, bite-sized delights with crispy shells and creamy fillings. This summer’s bouchées are maple almond praline and a vegan coconut pecan caramel. Piles of pay-by-weight chocolate bark sit behind a glass case, including this summer’s dark chocolate mole bark and strawberry rhubarb milk chocolate bark. Or, opt for toffee, also pay-by-weight: smoked almond and cocoa nib toffees are available now.
Theo also has a seasonal one-ounce basil pine nut bar with homemade pesto folded into 45 percent milk chocolate. Be sure to get these goodies now — they’ll be phased out starting in September.
Also, stop by the factory today and tomorrow for the annual S’mores Days — National S’mores Day is on August 10 — where you can indulge in a sticky mess of graham crackers (gluten free versions are available), marshmallows and chocolate with each ingredient handcrafted in the Theo kitchen. All proceeds from s’mores sales will benefit Food Lifeline, a nonprofit organization combating hunger in western Washington.
Photos Courtesy of Theo Chocolate