September 10, 2009

From bean to bar - chocolate bar of course / fudge sauce

The Theo Chocolate store is filled with chocolate you can taste and buy.
On Labor Day six family members and I took a tour of the Theo Chocolate factory in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. This was the second time I had been to the store but my first tour of the factory. The first time I visited the store front, I was a bit overwhelmed by the quantity and variety of chocolate available for sampling, and quickly became a fan of the delicious Theo chocolate. Theo has earned the title of the only organic, fair trade bean-to-bar chocolate factory in the U.S. Here's a quote from their Web site:
At Theo Chocolate, we are changing the definition of “quality” by uniting creative excellence that results in deliciously award-winning chocolate with our unwavering commitment to changing the way the cocoa industry conducts business. At Theo, we believe there is no luxury in products that benefit us today, while jeopardizing future generations ability to meet their needs. When you taste our chocolate you will experience our passion and integrity in every luscious bite. We promise, there is something for everyone from the adventurous “foodie”, to those seeking the simple comfort of a delectably creamy milk chocolate bar.
We follow our passion for excellence to bring you chocolate that will delight your palate, ignite your imagination and inspire you to think and act sustainably! Be a part of our movement to save our planet and its capacity to nurture and sustain all living things. We can’t do it without you!
Even Jane Goodall has given the chocolate her blessing, and has two varieties, a milk and a dark, in her name. "Proceeds from the sale of these [Jane Goodall's label] chocolate bars will benefit cocoa farmers, promote conservation in the tropical rainforest and directly contribute to the Jane Goodall Institute’s efforts to save chimpanzees, develop community centered conservation efforts and direct youth education programs around the world."

We had to wear "cool" blue hair nets on the tour.
After our first little excursion to the shop, we blabbed so often about how much we loved it that our son decided to host a tour for his family, in-laws and parents. Whoohoo. We got the low-down on the history of the building and company, and a tour of the factory itself. Because it was a holiday and the factory was closed, no chocolate was actually being made while we were there, but the aroma of chocolate floated around our heads, and the samples flowed into our greedy little mouths.

Our animated guide, Abby, a food scientist by trade, was incredibly well-versed in all things chocolate. We learned more than we thought we wanted to know! It was so fascinating, and Abby was such a talented guide I found myself wishing I had become a chocolate maker instead of a graphic designer. We learned that the historic building was still in it's original state - just as it had been in its past lives as a trolley barn and a brewery. We learned about the fair trade practices involved in procuring the chocolate beans and the difficult task of gathering and fermenting the beans. (Did you know that fermentation was part of the chocolate-making process?)

We saw the machinery involved in making chocolate and learned how it worked. The machines were brought from Germany and are very old. (There is actually someone whose job it is to keep the machinery running, usually by making new parts to replace the old, worn-out ones. I think his name is Willy Wonka...)

In addition to the crazy machinery, there were buckets of beans and shelves full of chocolate molds. Did you know the reason chocolate bars are divided into sections is because they were originally designed by doctors, and each section was a dose? Yes, my friends, dark chocolate is a medicinal product.

We saw the kitchen where new flavors are created, and special chocolate confections are literally made by hand.

After the tour we re-entered the store and discovered a new display that we hadn't seen before. Theo has collaborated with a small vegan online company in Philadelphia to produce vegan specialty bars and hand-made chocolate confections.

Nicobella is an online small business. Click here for the Nicobella blog.

Since chocolate has been touted for its health benefits (lots of antioxidants in dark chocolate), and we can eat it with a little less guilt, I made sure to pick up a 91% cacao bar - for medicinal purposes, of course. I may need a daily dose!


I wish I could send everyone a bar of Theo chocolate - perhaps a giveaway would be appropriate. What do you think? In any case, I'll share a chocolate recipe.

Back in 2007 I blogged a recipe for chocolate crispy rice treats. I just made them the other day because I needed a quick dessert, and as I was stirring away at the stove, dipping my (clean) finger in for a taste, I thought, "this would make a great fudge sauce for ice cream or whatever." I made some (with slightly different ingredients) to try it out, and it was really good. As it sits on the cold ice cream it starts to harden and become caramel-like and stretchy in consistency. Makes my teeth tingle just to think about it. This recipe makes one cup of thick sauce.

Chocolate-almond hot fudge sauce
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup barley malt syrup (for gooeyness and caramel-like texture)
1/4 cup agave syrup (for sweetness)
1/4 cup vegan dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch sea salt (opt.)

Place almond butter, syrups, and chips in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly until melted, thick and hot. (about 5 minutes) Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. (Gets thicker as it cools.) Make hot fudge banana splits using 1/2 banana, a scoop of ice cream and a ladle of fudge sauce.

Here's a link to a chocolate - peanut butter dessert sauce that I haven't tried but sounds wonderful.

note: Instead of saving my leftover sauce as sauce, I stirred crispy brown rice cereal into the pot of chocolate then pressed the mixture into a pan for some brown rice treats to have on hand.


  1. What a fun tour! And how could a tour of a chocolate factory NOT include samples?! I think that is a requirement :-)

    I would fully support a chocolate giveaway :-) I have entered hundreds and NEVER win anything, but I always like to try!


  2. That chocolate sauce sounds DIVINE! You're right, that sauce would be amazing on ice cream. I'll keep this in mind the next time I make ice cream.

    The chocolate tour sounds like so much fun!

    I am seriously craving chocolate now after reading your post, haha.

  3. That's my kind of outing! I discovered Theo bars a couple of years ago and I just love them and their company philosphy. The bars taste great and I even love the package they come in. Your chocolate sauce looks wonderful!

  4. Courtney,
    It WAS a fun tour - informative, too. I barely touched on what we learned. Even if you just go to the store and not the tour, there are piles of samples. They know if you taste it you'll want to buy it. We did.

    I ate the sauce on homemade ice cream. I think I'm craving chocolate, now, too. I better go eat dinner first.

    That's so cool that you've tried Theo chocolate. It seems like a really great company.

  5. I would love to go to a tour for a food company - and for a chocolate factory even better! Theo chocolate is very good and I love the the quality of the chocolate!

    Hair nets aren't so cool when you have to wear them every day for work :(

  6. Now that (both the tour of the factory and the sauce) is my idea of heaven! Yum!

  7. LK,
    I was being a bit sarcastic about the hairnets. I wouldn't want to wear one every day. Sorry you have to do that but I guess it's better than having people find hair in their food.

    The tour WAS fun and I'd like to go back when the factory is in operation. I want to see the chocolate coming out of those pipes!

  8. A chocolate tour? Who wouldn't love that!?

    I haven't tried Theo chocolate, but your fudge sauce recipe is enticing me.

  9. Alisa,
    I've been eating my dark chocolate with orange bar (slowly, of course) and it's so delicious. This is looking like a new addiction.

    Thanks for your comment. It was a very neat tour!

  10. Somebody has told me about that chocolate before! I am a bit jealous of your trip. It sounds so interesting.

  11. I can't think of anything luckier than having a tour of a chocolate factory! And how cool that chocolate was originally medicinal. :)

  12. Mihl,
    The chocolate is really good, especially the really dark variety that is my favorite.

    What do you mean "originally?" Isn't it still medicinal? :)


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