Sunday, February 1, 2009

Food of the Gods

When you think of Seattle, what comes to mind?
a) the Space Needle
b) grunge
c) Bill Gates
d) chocolate!

There are no right answers here, but there is a better answer, and if you chose d) chocolate, congratulations! You have very good taste.

Seattle is home to the only certified organic and fair trade chocolate maker (not to be confused with chocolate melters, which are the many companies that buy partially processed chocolate and melt it to create their own confections) in the United States. And luckily for us who live here, they offer tours. For the bargain price of $6 you get an entertaining, informative look at their factory in Fremont, and as many chocolate samples as your heart desires. Is there a better way to spend an afternoon? My friend Rebecca, for whom this tour was a dream come true, would doubtlessly respond to that question with a firm, "No!" And far be it from me to argue.

Stephanie, Rebecca, and I took our first tour of Theo (I say first because I'm sure I'll be back) yesterday afternoon. While the factory shop stocks plenty of samples and is well worth visiting on its own, the tour brought chocolate to life. Our guide was a young, chipper employee, happy to share her company's mission of bringing delicious, sustainable, and socially responsible chocolate to the world, and able to answer every questions her audience threw her. As a guide myself, albeit in a far different capacity, I was impressed.

But the best part, of course, is the chocolate - the food of the gods, as the botanical name for the cocoa plant implies. We tried dark chocolates from Ghana or the Ivory Coast, milk chocolate flavored with chai tea, chipotle spice truffles, freshly roasted cocoa nibs, dark chocolate with orange, and much, much more. And since Theo chocolates do not come cheap - quite understandably so after you've taken the tour and learned the difference between their products and methods and those of the mass market - this feels like the best gourmet deal in Seattle.

One taste, and any chocolate lover is sure to agree.

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