Theo's Chocolate - A Scrumptious Seattle WA Factory to Visit ... Simply a Delicious Guilt Free Chocolate - Cocoa beans
People - Planet - Profit
How many of you realize that there is a code of business conduct which encompasses and uses these words as cornerstones for their operations?
Theo Chocolate is a business which practices the Triple Pundit - - an integrated bottom-line approach - - serving people planet and profit. They believe that economy, environment, and society are interdependent and all need to flourish equally.
What does People Planet and Profits mean? It means that Theo has adopted a “one for all and all for one” approach to business and life.
Founder Joseph Whinney pioneered the manufacture and supply of organic chocolate products. He was the first individual to import organic cocoa beans into North America. Through his chocolate company and factory he continues his mission to help cacao farmers, consumers and the overall health of the planet.
Theo is the only fair trade, “organic-bean-to-bar” chocolate factory in the United States. They are considered a chocolate “Maker” not a “Melter”. Theo is one of only twelve “bean-to-bar” makers in the country. Melters import finished chocolate, rework it, and sell it under their own label. Theo is the first roaster of Fair Trade Certified cocoa beans and the only roaster of organic cacao beans in the United States.
An intricate and important component of Theo’s business philosophy is that all people benefit from their product -- the farmers, the laborers, the factory workers and the consumers. Operating under this framework, everyone is valuable and necessary.
Many places in the world, like the Ivory Coast still use slavery and child labor to produce and harvest the cacao beans. Theo works with individual farmers and pays fairly for the cacao beans, often multiple times over what can be purchased on the open market. In this way the farmers are able to make enough so that their children can go to school instead of working in the fields and the hired laborers can be paid a sustainable wage.
In the movie “Like Water for Chocolate” the cook’s emotions are embodied into the food she creates. At the feasts everyone who eats of her food experiences these same emotions. I believe the good will and compassionate care Theo’s founders have embraced positively effect all who eat their chocolate bars, thus making it one of the truly guilt free pleasures on the market today.
In addition to purchasing only fair trade product, the company works with the farmers, educating them on how to grow premium organic crops. Cacao beans, like coffee, are mid-growing plants. The ideal growing conditions incorporate a canopy of shade trees and an abundance of ground cover. As the farmers grow crops in this fashion, an ecosystem is created which supports life. Thus they are able to grow crops in a sustainable and organic fashion. As a result, an abundance of life flourishes on these farms. This is the true definition of sustainability.
Theo started to sell their chocolate products in 2006. Their innovative ideas and practices are leading the industry. Last month they made the Time Magazine Top 100 List for most influential people and ideas. In February 2008 they made the “Best List” in “O”, the Oprah Magazine and in September 2007 the company made the Gristlist Top 15, honoring Green Business Entrepreneurs. In the last two years Theo has won numerous top awards for outstanding chocolate. Some of these awards include 2008 Winner and 5 medals from the London Academy of Chocolate; 2007 NASFT Sofi Gold: “Outstanding Chocolate”; and “Winner: Conscious Chocolate” 2007 Food and Wine Eco-Epicurean Awards.
But enough about the company, now let’s get on with the business of the factory tour and chocolate sampling! Theo is the only company which provides public factory tours. They conduct four a day, seven days a week. The tours cost a little, but are well worth the price as they are very informative, entertaining and you get to sample gobs of chocolate.
When you begin the factory tours you will don a beautiful hair net and receive a handout. The hair net is required as you will be walking in and through all phases of production. The handout turns out to be very useful and fun as you watch each phase of the production line.
Some interesting facts I took away from the tour:
Theo, the company name, is from 'Theobroma Cacao' the Latin name for the Cacao Tree. In the Mayan language this translates to “Food of the Gods”.
Most of the factory’s roasting equipment comes from a 1930’s German coffee roasting plant.
Cacao beans are seeds from huge and very colorful sweet fruit pods which grow everywhere on the trees even on the trunks!
Cacao beans, like nuts, have a hard shell which must be crushed in order to get to the nib. The husks then need to be separated from the chocolate nibs. The husks are bagged and sold to the public for use in their gardens while the nibs continue on a conveyor belt to be roasted.
Roasting bring out the flavor in the nibs. During this process the nibs must be tasted every few seconds to ensure that they are not over roasted. It is a very delicate process and batches can easily be ruined.
Water must never touch chocolate - it can ruin it!
Theo makes their candy in very small batches. Their candy bars have a shelf life of 18 months, while their confections have a shelf live of two weeks. All of their product is hand crafted and individually created.
In the tour you get to sample everything and with the abundance of product it may seem overwhelming. So here is how I broke it out. They have the large bars. These bars have the distinction that the cacao bean of each variety is from one particular region. For example, they have a bar called Madagascar. To create this bar they only use beans from the Madagascar. I like these bars very much as they are simply pure chocolate!
They also offer smaller chocolate bars. These bars come in both dark and milk chocolate varieties and are quite yummy. I find it difficult to choose as the smaller bars have unique flavor pairings, such as coconut curry; hazelnut crunch; bread and salt; or fig and fennel. Perhaps more research is needed.
The final product they offer is confections. Beautiful bon bon like creations. They are exquisite in both appearance and taste. If you are gifted with a box of them, realize they are definitely meant to be eaten. Since they use only organic ingredients and no preservatives, the candies have a limited shelf life of only two weeks.
After touring this factory, my eyes were open to the complexities of chocolate. I can tell you now that when I eat Theo chocolate I find that I am happy! I can eat my chocolate with no guilt, only enjoyment. I understand the chocolate business from a different perspective and realize that I am intricate part of a very good process. I am the final component in this ‘triple bottom line’ company, which values people, planet and profit in equal measure and with my chocolate smears I am happy for this!