After scooping up their salted caramels and Phinney bars in our shop, I was quite eager to make a stop over at Theo‘s factory whilst in Seattle.
Walking through Fremont towards their brick building is quite something. You think you can smell chocolate when you walk through our door? We could smell the acids being released through the conching process nearly two blocks away. If you get lost on the way to the place, you can easily follow your nose.
For $6 we were able to tour the the factory with about a dozen others, and a guide describing each step of the bean to bar process. Though I discuss the steps of ‘bean to bar’ in tastings and with customers all the time, it was quite lovely to see it all being done.
And so, I give you our tour of Theo Chocolate:
The Roaster: First the beans are washed and then they end up here. This is where the beans begin to take on their final flavour.
The Winnowing Machine: From the roaster the beans go into this machine, where the husk is removed and the beans become nibs.
After the Winnowing machine things got a bit more complicated as machines began work within their green casings. In these machines it seemed that the cocoa butter was being separated from the solids, and then added back together before heading over to the ‘mixer’ just behind us. This was where flavourings were added. From there the chocolate worked its way through the water-heated pipes to the Conche, just on the other side of the tour guide, where the particles were refined and some of the acids released. This was the smell that filled the factory and beyond.
From here we were taken to the confection kitchen, where all their caramels and ganaches are created. While we were visiting, they were prepping for Pear-Balsamic ganache while another person was creating the ‘jam’ part of PB&J truffles – the smell was amazing.
Finally, we took a peek at the bar makers before heading into the retail space again. The chocolate moves through the pipes and into bowls, where it is poured into the moulds. After that a machine vibrates the moulds to make sure no air bubbles make it into your bars.
And then back into their beautiful retail space.
Theo clearly has their bar and confection making down to a science, and they have become a well known chocolatier throughout the U.S. We saw their bars in grocery stores and in almost every chocolate shop we visited. Our tour guide said to keep up with the demand, they recently added a third shift to their lineup, which means they are making chocolate 24hrs. a day. Crazy, but it means more of their caramels and coconut curry bars for me… and you.