Lori Hinton
Theonista tour guide Nicole Pita pulls out a tray of tempting Theo confections. CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM THE TOUR.

101 Things to do in Ballard: A tour, taste of Theo Chocolate

OK, so we know that Theo Chocolate is technically located in Fremont, not Ballard, but if you’re a fan of chocolate you will certainly forgive us for making this one of our 101 Things to do in Ballard.

Just think of it as something to do FROM Ballard and make a visit to Theo even more of an adventure by walking or biking to get there (after all the chocolate samples, you’ll need some way to burn off the calories).

However you slice it, this melt-in-your-mouth opportunity located in the old Red Hook Brewery building is within close reach for any Seattleite, considering there are only 18 operating chocolate factories in the entire country—most of which are owned by the same mega-corporations.

But Theo is different—in almost every respect. The first and only organic and Fair Trade chocolate factory in the country, Theo Chocolate is “equal parts delicious and ethical” buying organic, Fair Trade certified cocoa beans direct from farmers and grower coops.

Named after the Latin word for the cacao tree (theobroma cacao), Theo Chocolate is free of GMOs, pesticides and fertilizers right down the nib—no hard to pronounce soy lecithin-type ingredients or Dutch processing methods (meaning, treated with alkali) here.

It’s pure cocoa at its finest, and most batches of the good stuff take two weeks to make. And while rich chocolate is considered a luxury to most, at Theo, the belief is that “there is no luxury in products that benefit us today, while jeopardizing future generations’ ability to meet their needs tomorrow.”

So, not only does it taste good, you can also feel good about the chocolate you are eating because it’s sustainable. What’s more, contrary to popular belief, Theo Chocolate is actually good for you, too.

“Most people have no idea chocolate comes from a fruit,” said Theonista tour guide Nicole Pita. “So it’s actually health food, not junk food."

Dark chocolate (containing a high percentage of cocoa solids) contains high levels of antioxidants derived from the Cacao seed. In fact, the only seed that beats out Cacao is the infamous Acai berry…but you can’t make chocolate from that.

The mantra at Theo is the darker the chocolate (upward of 70 percent cocoa), the better it is for you. Try the Venezuela Dark Chocolate Bar with a whopping 91 percent cocoa content.

But I don’t want to give away all the tasty tidbits and trivia from this tour, so I’ll spill the beans on prepping for the tour instead.

Theo offers tours every day of the week that last about an hour each (and include samples to nibble at every step in the process). They limit tours to 20 people and tours fill up fast, so reservations are highly recommended.

Once you’re on the list, show up 10 minutes early to check in. You’ll don an attractive blue hair net to keep the health board happy and make sure to wear closed toed shoes (as it is a working factory).

Your tour guide will give you a little history on Theo and on the magic of the cocoa bean (please note tour content is far from Willy Wonka and fairly academic, so it’s more geared to adults than kids). You’ll get to taste test everything from the cocoa nibs (the pure cocoa straight from the inner bean), to chunks of dark and milk chocolate bars, as well as handmade confections.

No time for a tour? Visit the retail store and sample away. You’ll find plenty of chips of the ole blocks (that are continually refilled by the attentive Theonistas) from nearly every chocolate variety Theo produces—from vegan, soy-free Origin bars, such as Ghana Dark (with 84 percent cocoa content) and Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate to Nib Brittle (my fave), Dark Chocolate Orange and even Jane Goodall bars.

Can’t make it out of Ballard to see Theo at all? You can find Theo Chocolate at the Ballard Market and also Habitude Salon and Spa, as well as several other retailers in Seattle.

In addition to tours, Theo also offers movie nights, craft nights, yoga and chocolate classes, and the full-fledged chocolate lovers’ ultimate aspiration—the Theo Chocolate Academy. At the academy, award-winning chocolatiers and chocolate experts will teach you the science behind the cacao bean, chocolate’s history and culture, the secrets of making fine chocolate, and all its culinary uses.

Complete all 12 classes and earn a Theo degree in chocolatology. Now that’s a title to be proud of if you’re cuckoo for cocoa. “I’d like to thank the Academy…”


Theo Chocolate Tours and Classes

3400 Phinney Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98103

Tours Mon-Thurs 2 and 4 p.m., Fri-Sun 10 a.m., Noon, 2 and 4 p.m.
$6 per person; reservations required
Retail store open daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

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Chocolate and Acai Berries

I admire the way Theo Chocolate produces fine chocolate ethically and organically. They say you can't make chocolate out of acai berries. Well, maybe not but you can make delicious chocolate with acai berries. It is delicous, consciously produced and available shipped right to your door. So if you're in Ballard, by all means have some Theo Chocolate, I know I will if I get the chance. But if you want healthy chocolate you can feel good about feeding your family, and you want it without having to take a road trip, then visit our website http://www.myfitchocolate.com


Icongratulate to yuo to be able to make this product.Iwould like to taste it ,but I live in argentina.greetings to Nicole Pita.,Lidia