A Tale Of Two Chocolate Tours - Theo Chocolate and Steelgrass Farm

A Tale Of Two Chocolate Tours - Theo Chocolate Seattle and Steelgrass Farm Kauai

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It may come as no shock to you since we are big coffee snobs, we are also chocolate snobs!  So when we get the opportunity to do anything related to chocolate, you bet we're going to jump at the chance.  Here are a couple of chocolate tours we have participated in, which are very different from each other.

If this post is giving you chocolate cravings, check out my recipe for Mexican Chocolate Brownies!

Theo Chocolate Factory Tour - Seattle, WA

Last week was my birthday, so we decided to go on a chocolate factory tour since we were in the Seattle area. If you haven't heard of Theo yet, we highly recommend their chocolate. Not only is it delicious, it is all organic, and they are Fair For Life certified, which means they pay way beyond Fair Trade prices and require ethical working conditions for the ENTIRE supply chain.

 The outside of the Theo Chocolate Factory

The outside of the Theo Chocolate Factory

They have helped over 35,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo succeed in the cacao industry and the extra money gained from their business also has gone into building a much-needed maternity hospital.  So it goes without saying that buying their chocolate is a good thing.

Theo is located in the Fremont neighbourhood of Seattle, so while you're in the area, if you are new to Seattle, check out the Fremont Troll, Lenin Statue, and head over to Ballard to watch the locks in action. To take their factory tour you must book in advance on their website. Sometimes they can take walk-ins, but the tours are usually booked up.

 Freshly roasted cacao beans at Theo Chocolate

Freshly roasted cacao beans at Theo Chocolate

Once the tour begins, you are taken into a room decorated with photos of cacao trees, various aspects of the farming process and the people who grow the cacao. There is also a tiny cacao tree in a planter in the room which unfortunately doesn't grow any pods since it doesn't get pollinated.

The first half of the tour is spent seated in this room where the guide tells you all about the chocolate, the farms, and the chocolate making process. You are given 4-5 different chocolates to sample, going from the darkest chocolate and ending with milk chocolate. Naturally, the darkest is our favourite.

The next part of the tour takes place in a glass viewing room where you can see the factory in action (if you go on a weekday). The guide will then explain all the different machines and what they do to turn the cacao beans into a delicious chocolate bar.  Here you will get to taste a few more things, like cacao nibs and chocolate flake.

 Cacao bean roaster - I could literally watch (and smell!) this thing all day

Cacao bean roaster - I could literally watch (and smell!) this thing all day

 Part of the chocolate factory

Part of the chocolate factory

After the viewing room, you are taken to the retail store where you can taste a few more things and are given 20% off your purchases for the day. This is where my disappointment happened. I had read several blog articles and news articles about the tour before we went, and they all mentioned that you got to wear a hairnet and visit the kitchen, where the true magic happens.

Well, apparently this is not the case anymore. We asked the guide about it and due to their company's growth as a national/international brand, the FDA says they are no longer allowed to have regular people like us anywhere near where the chocolate is actually being made. This put a damper on my birthday and my Augustus Gloop-like fantasies, but our guide did give me a free bag of cacao nibs as a condolence prize.

All in all, while the tour was enjoyable because it involved chocolate, for us to was a bit of a rookie tour. If you don't know much about cacao/chocolate, you will learn a lot and have fun, but for us, since we already knew everything she talked about (and more!) because of our previous chocolate tour in Kauai, it was a bit underwhelming.

Theo Chocolate Factory

3400 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103

Tour: One hour - $10/person


Steelgrass Chocolate Farm Tour - Kauai, HI

A Tale Of Two Chocolate Tours - Theo Chocolate Seattle and Steelgrass Farm Kauai

I think it is safe to say that this was the best tour of any kind we have ever been on.  Steelgrass Farm is located near Kapaa on the island of Kauai.  It is the island's largest chocolate farm.  Hawaii is also the only US state where cacao can grow, so it really is a rare treat to see cacao growing without venturing to South America or Africa.

 Soursop growing on the tree - tastes like a piña colada and supposedly kills cancer cells!

Soursop growing on the tree - tastes like a piña colada and supposedly kills cancer cells!

We took this tour on our trip to Kauai a few years ago and still talk about it all the time. This is a three-hour tour through their farm, and while the main event is the chocolate, you get to try a plethora of other interesting things as well.

The tour starts by strolling through their botanical farm, tasting everything that is in season right from the tree or plant. It was June when we were there, so we tasted lychee, sugar cane, lilikoi (passionfruit), rambutan, soursop, watermelon radish, mountain apple, peppercorns, allspice, cinnamon, icecream beans and probably a lot more that I just can't think of at the moment.

You then finally arrive in the cacao orchard, where you can see cacao pods on the tree. They break on open for you and you get to taste the white fruit that surrounds the seeds, which is super juicy and tastes a lot like mango or pineapple. Then you taste the fresh cacao seed, which is purple tastes nothing like chocolate, but I still love it!

 No, it's not a football tree, it's cacao!

No, it's not a football tree, it's cacao!

You are then taken to a tent with seating and are lectured on the history of chocolate and the chocolate-making process while tasting 11 different chocolates from their own farm and from others around the world and discussing the different flavours of each. And yes, they do all taste different. Think wine tasting, but even better because it's chocolate instead. Yum!

Of course, at the end of the tour, you are given the chance to buy their chocolate as well as vanilla and honey from the farm.

 Us in Kauai a few years ago - please ignore our hair...

Us in Kauai a few years ago - please ignore our hair...

 And since it's us, here are some unripe coffee berries we found in Kauai!

And since it's us, here are some unripe coffee berries we found in Kauai!

We definitely recommend this tour to anyone visiting Kauai, and they operate rain or shine.

Steelgrass Farm

Kapaa, Kauai, HI

Tour: Three hours - $75/person

 Hawaii at its finest!

Hawaii at its finest!

While we do recommend both of these tours for different reasons, the only one we would repeat would be Steelgrass Farm in Kauai. 

If this post is giving you chocolate cravings, check out my recipe for Mexican Chocolate Brownies!

Have you taken any sort of chocolate tour? Let us know in the comments!

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 A Tale Of Two Chocolate Tours - Theo Chocolate Seattle and Steelgrass Farm Kauai
 A Tale Of Two Chocolate Tours - Theo Chocolate Seattle and Steelgrass Farm Kauai