When I die I want my ashes to be scattered at 3400 Phinney Avenue North in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle so I can be close to the Theo Chocolate factory and store.
My first introduction to Theo came from a gift of their Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate bar, which is comprised of heavenly smooth dark chocolate and roasted bits of cocoa nibs. The texture is similar to eating a slightly crunchier Crunch bar, but the flavor is a trillion times better. (And I do mean a trillion, so don't try to debate me on that, math geeks. You know who you are.)
When out-of-town family members visited recently, we decided to take a tour of the factory, which a friend had highly recommended. Alas, the tour was completely booked but the friendly gal on the phone invited us to visit their store to try some of their chocolate samples. Anyone who knows me and my family know that, if you promise us free samples of anything, we will follow you like the lemmings that we are.
We rushed over to their small but well laid-out shop and spent the next hour in chocolate-sample-heaven.
Where to begin? Well, first of all, Theo Chocolates uses only cocoa-related products that are organic and obtained using fair-trade practices, all of which means zilch to me if the end product doesn't deliver.
But it does deliver, happily. We started with samples of Theo Origins Bars, chocolate bars that feature the flavor notes of cocoa beans from different parts of the world. The cacao content ranged from 65 to 91 percent. It was a lot of fun trying each one to find a favorite and the resulting cacao buzz put us in a very good mood indeed.
We moved on the Theo Classic Combination Bars, which combines dark chocolate with the following flavors: mint, orange and cherries with almonds. I thought the chocolate-mint combinatation was fine, although the strong taste of the spearmint and peppermint oils reminded me of minty toothpaste. However, I am also a person who doesn't enjoy peppermint tea for the reason, so if you like peppermint tea, I think you would adore this bar. The chocolate-orange combination was delicious, with a fresh orange taste that I thought complemented and did not overpower the taste of the chocolate.
I absolutely fell in love with the chocolate-cherry-almond combination, which features small bits of chewy dried cherries and crunchy roasted almonds. At first bite, you feel the textures of smooth, chewy and crunchy all at once. Then the dark chocolate hits you like an exclamation point and leaves you wanting more. Right now, the Dark Chocolate with Cherries and Almonds bar, which I shall call "crack" for short, is my favorite. I bought a lot of this, but much of my stash is already gone and I wonder if I'll get the violent shakes when my crack supply runs out.
We then moved on to the most fun of all chocolate bars, the Theo 3400 Phinney bars, which are milk and dark chocolates combined with a ton of unique ingredients such as coffee (double crack!), chai spices, hazelnut brittle, the aforementioned cocoa nibs and the wildest flavor of all ... coconut curry! Who was the genius who said, "Hey, let's combine milk chocolate with coconut and curry spices!"? The Coconut Curry bar tastes AMAZING, like a gentle Thai curry with the spices all mellowed out by the milky flavor of chocolate. I purchased a few bars of this as well and am saving them for a day when I feel like having my brain explode with wonderment.
To be honest, after this point everything else started to blend together. I liken it to the numbness your tongue feels at a wine tasting after you're already tasted and spat out four wines. Or it could have been the effects of cacao hitting my bloodstream and making me hyper-alert to everything, including the sound of my own breathing. This is why I will soon make a return trip to the store, so I can re-taste the chocolates and make further notes. The sacrifice I make for research is mind-boggling.
3400 Phinney Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98103
(The very friendly Theo employees I spoke to recommend calling for tour reservations at least one week in advance.)