Indulge your chocoholic self on the Theo Chocolate Factory tour …
As a fully fledged, and certified chocoholic, there could be no better tourist activity for me than a chocolate factory tour. Well actually, only because it did say you’d be consuming lots of chocolate! I mean, if we’re going to be honest – that is why you do a chocolate factory tour right?! Chocolate samples!
15 minutes before our tour started, we were ushered into a waiting room, where we paid up and got ticked off the reservation list. There’s a beautiful backdrop here for a photo, and the receptionist is well versed in taking photos for you. I thought it’d be a good idea to do one when I looked clean – I mean, surely later I’d have chocolate dripping from somewhere on me! (What was I thinking wearing a white t-shirt??)
On the dot of your tour time, you’re taken from the reception room, into your first room – I’m going to call this the education room. Here, for 20 minutes or so, you’ll hear and learn a little about the history of Theo chocolate, which includes a base lesson on Theobroma Cacao – the chocolate tree. Where in the world it’s grown, what a tree looks like, how the fruit forms and grows, and then how the beans are cultivated from it. This history shares also Theo’s part in the two regions they purchase their cacao beans from, and how they’re impacting the local communities through their fair trade practices. Huge kudos to Theo for this. When you purchase a Theo bar, you can feel good about it, knowing you’re making a positive impact in a small rural African (or Peruvian) community.
During this presentation, you’ll also get your first taste!
The factory itself
From here you’ll move to your second room – which offers you a 180 degree view of the factory. This is also an educational room. Along with more tastings, you’ll learn here about how Theo turns their bags of beans into your chocolate bar. Whilst the information is interesting, and the tastings are great, the factory itself lacks a little oomph. And not just Oompa Loompa oomph (yes, sadly not a single sighting or sound, sniff sniff).
Now that you’re over that disappointment, there’s also no rivers of running chocolate, or in fact, anything much to see other than machines. I know they have chocolatiers handcrafting chocolates (as I saw it on their video), but we don’t get to see these. Personally, I want to see more than machines in action, I wanted to see chocolate in action. This for me was a miss for the tour. The info was great, the tastings were great, but the factory section itself, was a little a dull.
The factory shop
After the factory we move to finish, as only every good tour does, in the shop. Here we’re given another couple of samples to try, and as tour participants, a 20% discount card to use today. This could come in handy!
BUT …. What I didn’t realise about the Theo Factory Shop before I went, is that it has samples throughout it. Next to all of their bars, are samples you can help yourself to. This is great, because it’s always so much nicer to be able to try each flavour, before you commit to buying a bar of it. Most of Theo’s chocolate are dark chocolate based, so for a milk lover like myself (you know I have the sweetest of teeth!), there wasn’t so much to choose from.
One of the chocolates we did sample on the tour was the lemon. This is one of Theo’s seasonal bars, and from my cart and those of my fellow tourists, it was a clear favourite.
In fact, one of the reasons why you may want to visit the Theo Factory Shop, is that along with the free samples, there are also exclusive chocolates here. So if you want to be a chocolate snob, pop in and pick up some exclusivity.
Theo also runs a range of other events and classes. I was very intrigued by the Chocolate Yoga class – apparently you receive a tasting after every move. That sounds like the most fun way to exercise I’ve ever heard of.
For a full range of the other options available, click here.
Would I recommend it?
If you’re into educating yourself, then absolutely. I enjoyed learning how chocolate is grown, cultivated, and processed.
BUT if you’re short on time, and were really only going to book the tour because of the samples, just go visit the factory shop. Here you’ll get to try many of the bar flavours before you purchase, alongside some Theo specials not available anywhere else.
- their full bean to bar practices. Maybe you pay a little more for their bars, but you do so because the farmer is being paid a fair price, and the product is organic. Theo also contribute to the community where their chocolate is grown. This is the way business should be done.
- the education segment of the tour – learning how chocolate is grown, cultivated and produced was really interesting . Now I understand more when reading the labels on the back of my chocolate bars
- Theo are very generous with samples. You get a good range of samples on the tour – I did a 12pm tour – chocolate for lunch!
- the factory shop samples – help yourself and sample most of their chocolate bars before you purchase – LOVE this
- exclusive chocolates available only at their factory shop
- great prices in their shop – their standard bars were almost $1 less than in the shops
- they do have a full range of other events – who doesn’t love the sound of that chocolate yoga??!!
- you don’t get to really see any chocolate in the factory – I’d like to see the chocolatiers at work, alongside some melted chocolate somewhere to really make me drool
- it’d be great to include a tasting of their hot chocolate (they sell a powder in the shop, I’d love to taste this). Bizarrely they have coffee to help yourself to in the shop – they’re missing an opportunity here.
- I came out without a spec on my white t-shirt …
For the nitty gritty on the Theo Chocolate Factory tour, read on.
The Theo Chocolate Factory tour is in a beautiful historic 1900’s building in Fremont. If you have a car, it’s a cinch getting there with google maps, and there’s free 2 hour parking outside the building.
Tours run daily, with the first at 10:30, the last starts at 3:45. The tour takes 1 hour, and costs $12 plus tax. It is advisable to book ahead, as many of the tours sell out. Click HERE for more info and to book.
(If you’re a Seattle local (or very organised), you could get your tour for free. The third Thursday of each month, Theo offer a free tour at 4:30pm. Bookings open 2 months out).
The Factory Shop
The factory shop is at 3400 Phinney Ave. N., Freemont, Seattle. It’s open daily from 10am – 6pm.
So what do you think? Are you keen to become a fully certified chocoholic? Are you already a Theo chocolate lover? What’s your favourite flavour? And will you take the tour?
(And Theo, if you’re reading this, I’m totally open to chocolate bribes – just message me for my address!!)