About once a month I get a lovely email in my inbox from Judy's Book of Seattle. It highlights local businesses, services and community oriented activities that may interest the curious Seattleite. This month's feature advertised a free tour of the Theo Chocolate factory in town. Any time the words free and chocolate are placed in the same sentence, consider me there before the thought has even finished.
So there I was! I had just been given the equivalent of a "Golden Ticket" in my inbox - well, sort of.
*Note: One of the side effects of coming from my generation is the stigma associated with chocolate factories. I can't help but imagine Willie Wonka leading me through dancing oompa loompas and fully lickable backdrops. Gene Wilder really ruined it for me. Way to go, Gene.
Even though licking their tempering barrels was off limits, I was equally thrilled when they offered me some of their delectable Earl Grey chocolates, nib brittle bars and, my personal favorite, the lemon centered bite-size confections.
Not only is Theo the 11th Chocolate manufacturer in the US, they are also the first and only ALL ORGANIC Fair Trade manufacturers in the United States. What a special treat practically in my own backyard.
Theo Chocolate adapted its name from the genus Theobroma, from which the cocoa tree species comes. Pretty clever, isn't it?
Upon my arrival, I was warmly greeted by the sales and marketing directors (and chocolatiering visionaries), Debra and Pam. Pam was the tour guide for our eager and sugar starved group of 5. Being the 5th wheel is never any fun, but luckily I was able to fill that empty void with chocolate-type substances. I think that's a healthy approach, don't you?
These two ladies could fill a room with all of their excitement for organic chocolate. Pam's energy was almost contagious as she described each process and step of the chocolate making experience with ample enthusiasm. So much so, that I began having visions of starting my own factory with chocolate covered working monkeys wearing funny ribbons and flying bananas...And then realized I was insane and wondered what other organic things might be in my chocolates causing me to hallucinate.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed learning about the process of creating delicious and socially conscious chocolates, as well as meeting two inspirational women who are pioneering the organic Fair Trade chocolate industry with more passion than you could imagine.
In my attempt to share the expedition amongst friends, I created a photostream of pictures taken from the tour. I also found a great resource that illustrates the process of chocolate manufacturing, just in case you were wondering.