Theo Chocolate by Susan Mason-Milks
I’m thrilled to be one of the Austen Authors working on The Darcy Brothers, and I confess I am just a bit in love with Theo, the character we created as Darcy’s brother. Shortly after we began the project, I was driving past our little neighborhood grocery store and saw on their sign that they were having a special on “Theo Chocolate.” Theo Chocolate? Then I remembered sampling Theo Chocolate (Yum!) at a local food festival.
I immediately went out and got reacquainted with Theo Chocolate. Oh, the sacrifices we make for our craft! When I visited their web site: https://www.theochocolate.com, I learned they have factory tours – with free samples! The factory is in an historic building in the Seattle neighborhood called Fremont less than two miles from my house. I called up a friend, and we were off to take the tour!
Just entering the factory is a treat in itself. The heavenly scent of chocolate fills the air and makes your mouth water. We had a wonderful time and ate so much chocolate that I thought I’d never eat it again. Fortunately, by the next day I was ready for more.
The day after Thanksgiving I took the tour again with a group of out of town guests in tow. I think other than the actual Thanksgiving meal, it was one of the highlights of their visit.
Here are some interesting facts I learned:
- The name “Theo” comes from the Theobromine cacao tree (often just called a cacao tree), which produces the cocoa beans used in chocolate.
- Theobromine is from two Greek words “theo” (gods) and broma (food) making chocolate the “food of the gods.”
- Theo is the first company to exclusively use fair trade, organic, non-GMO ingredients in their products. Even the ingredients such as vanilla beans and cane sugar follow these standards.
- Theo Chocolate primarily makes dark chocolate (with varying percentages of cacao) although they do make some milk chocolate. I noticed that two of their special holiday bars are milk chocolate (Coconut Mint and Gingerbread).
- A dark chocolate Theo bar contains only cocoa beans, organic cane sugar, and organic vanilla. For milk chocolate, cocoa butter, and powered milk are also added.
- The company believes “that the finest artisan chocolate in the world can (and should be) produced in an entirely ethical, sustainable fashion.”
- They use beans from only a few countries in order to ensure the beans are fair trade, organic and the very best: Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Peru.
- The pods containing the beans grow on the trunk of the tree, not out on the branches.
- Each pod contains twenty to forty seeds and it takes the beans from two to four pods to make a chocolate bar.
- Roasted cocoa beans taste a little like roasted coffee beans. (The two are chemically related.)
- Chocolate does not contain caffeine although some of the effects of theobromine are similar to caffeine.
- The use of cocoa beans goes back thousands of years. The first use was probably a slightly bitter, hot drink similar to coffee.
- In addition to making amazingly delicious chocolate bars, Theo also creates hand-made caramels and confections in their special kitchen.
- Theo Chocolate supports an organization called “World Bicycle Relief” which provides bicycles for people in developing countries. For example, doctors can reach more patients if they ride a bicycle rather than having to walk. The bicycles are specially made so they can be taken apart and repaired with very few tools.
- In addition to making bars, Theo also makes special caramels and confections that are usually not sold outside the Pacific Northwest. (However, these can be ordered on line.)
- If you go to the Theo Chocolate Factory Store, you can sample any of their bars( and pretty much as much as you want) before you buy. (Another yum!)
- The people who work at Theo are friendly and fun – and dedicated to the quality of their product.