Fremonsters! If you have never been on the Theo Chocolate tour, you need to go as soon as possible! Theo Chocolate is proud to be the first Organic, IMO Fair Trade Fair for Life and NON-GMO certified bean-to-bar chocolate maker in North America! I will take you on a virtual-esque tour, however, on a free weekend day it is worth the hour or so of your time. You can get tour information and chocolate at: http://www.theochocolate.com
The tour begins by getting hairnets that you can take pictures in and get acquainted with the people who are going to be on the tour with you. Then, you go and sit down where a lot of chocolate education takes place.
Getting ready to start our Tour!
Paul has his hair nicely tucked in!
Our tour guides name was Raissa and she began to walk us through what bean-to-bar actually means. Cacao is a fruit that grows on trees around the equator. This part of the world is known as the chocolate belt, and is where almost all chocolate is from. Mainly chocolate is imported from Peru, Panama, and the Congo. Theo Chocolate has gone to great lengths to ensure that the cacao that is shipped in is sourced from areas where no slavery is taking place. The workers are paid fairly for a fair days work. Theo also goes to the extreme to raise money through some of their partner chocolate bars to give to communities that have been damaged by unfair labor practices mainly in the Congo. Theo chocolate is a socially responsible company that takes the extra step to make sure their cacao is being sourced properly.
This is the stage in the tour where you get to try the chocolate they make (my favorite what the coconut chocolate)! The flavor wheel helps you to taste the flavors. They can fall into categories such as: nutty, earthy, sweet, roasted, floral, spicy, bitter, or fruity. As we were trying the chocolates, we learned about the history of cacao and how it is harvested. Theo is Latin for “God.” The tree, Theobroma, is where cacao comes from and it has been known as “food of the gods.” It is known to be the next healthiest thing for our bodies besides water. The Aztec leader Montezuma was known for taken cacao beans from conquered people and he would drink goblet after goblet of hot chocolate everyday in a display of strength and power! The fruit has blossoms and then grow at different rates on the side of the trunk of the Theobroma tree. It is then taken off and is opened up. Inside, there is a white meaty part known as the mucilage. It is scooped out and inside are cacao beans. These beans then go through the process of becoming chocolate.
Ok, so it is probably pretty obvious that after eating five different types of chocolate, I was pretty happy. We were taught how the cacao was pulled from the mucilage, then fermented for 3-5 days, then dried, then packaged in a burlap sack. That is when it gets put on a ship and sent to Seattle. Once it gets to Theo Chocolate, it is then turned into chocolate. Theo has a drink blend made for them at Cafe Vita, so you need to check that out. They also make dark chocolate bars which have 70% plus values of cacao in each bar, making them healthy and full of antioxidants. Their milk chocolate bars have about 45% cacao. It was interesting to note that for something to be labeled “chocolate” and not “chocolate flavored” it must have at least 10% cacao in it. The bars you get at Theo’s are not only tasty, but ultra-rich in cacao. The chocolate bars here are also soy-free. The cacao butter is utilized to keep the bars together instead of a filler such as soy lecithin. It really made me wonder where my Reece’s were being sourced from.
We then started our factory tour. The first thing I noticed was the smell of chocolate wafting in the air and how clean the facility was for being used every single day. We were shown the process of testing the quality of the beans, roasting the beans, shelling them to get nibs (which we were able to taste test), and milling. Nibs are the part of the bean after the shell is removed. It is sold here too, and is great for making your own trail mix or other treat with. There are 16 total steps the beans go through. I learned about each one happily, as the theobromine was beginning to set in. Theo Chocolate moved into the old Trolly station building which turned into a brewery which was then moved. They started producing chocolate in 2006 after purchasing the building in 2005. They have two roasters and each day they roast for a different flavor.
After this process is done, the chocolate is taken into the kitchen where the inclusions like sugar are added. They are then molded and made into sculptures or candies! This part of the tour was amazing because we got to try a ganache and a caramel. These are delicacies that only last for two weeks, so I felt very special to get to try one freshly made. The sculptures are available to purchase during the holidays. They also make only one white chocolate bar, the Full Moon Bar. You can only get this one during Halloween.
Santa Sculpture with tempered chocolate.
Fremont Rocket made from chocolate.
Honey Saffron caramel, Vanilla Salted caramel made with Pink Himalayan sale, Burnt Sugar ganache, Lime Coriander ganache made with lime juice and lime puree (extra zesty)!
The tour then ended in the store front. We were each given a full sized chocolate bar and they were there to answer any questions. The store is full of chocolates, books, recipes books, sculptures, and everything Theo! For a truly Fremont experience, I would recommend this to anyone coming in from out of town or for anyone who loves chocolate as much as I do! Each season there are new flavors to try, and Theo does specialty chocolates for weddings and events. The prices are very reasonable. You can treat your kids to a Kid’s Crunch that is natural, healthy, and good for them for the same price as you would buy something over-processed from the store. Plus, you are helping keep people out of slavery and business in Fremont. What more could you want from a company?
In the store!