Friday, July 6, 2012

38 Things: Tour a Chocolate Factory

I've been wanting to tour the Theo's chocolate factory in Fremont for several years but it took adding it to my list of 38 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 39 to finally get it done.  Also, my niece is in town and I thought she would enjoy it as well.  It's $6 a person and I highly advise you to reserve a spot online as they fill up quickly, especially in the summer months. 

Theo's Chocolate is an organic/fair trade chocolate company that focuses on a bean to bar approach in their factory, meaning that they are involved in every step of the chocolate growing and making process.  A whopping 70% of the world's cacao comes from a part in West Africa where child labor and slave labor is rampant (does Hershey's guarantee that their chocolate is child/slave labor free?).

Theo's ensures that their workers are adults, paid a living wage, and not having to breathe in chemical fumes that come from conventional farming.   Which is of course why their chocolates are so expensive.  But they are awfully tasty.  The factory is totally set up for tours to come through; they definitely believe that the more educated consumer they have, the more successful they will be.

We started out in a room that allowed us to see the giant roaster that doesn't look too much different from a giant sized coffee roaster. 

The factory has an interesting color coded system.  Items/machinery that are transforming the cacao into something new (grinding it, tempering it, etc,) are painted green.  When the beans/chocolate are in transit to the next stage, they are yellow.  So these yellow buckets of beans are raw and ready to be roasted.  The red bins contain already roasted beans.  Easy way to keep track. 

While the factory is large, it is still hard to believe that they processed 800,000 pounds of chocolate last year and they are trying to double that amount this year!

This room is where the beans come in and are cleaned before going into the roasting room.  I guess they find all sorts of debris in the bags of beans. 

These three giant vats on the right are holding the chocolate once it has been refined small enough and mixed with sugar and milk powder (But that's only if they are making milk chocolate.  Dark chocolate just has sugar added.) 

I wasn't able to get good photos of where they make the specialty confections or how they make the bars and their wrapping room is a strictly off limits area.  But we were shown how in the smaller, specialty bars, all the added ingredients like mint or ginger or sea salt are done by hand.  It's a very labor intense process.  The larger bars just get dumped in big molds by a machine, but the smaller ones and the candies are made by hand.

Needless to say, the tour ends in the gift shop where we spent a lot of money on delicious chocolate.  I also bought a jar of cocoa nibs to use in baking.  
If you are interested in candy or chocolate at all, I would highly recommend this tour.  The tour guides are funny and knowledgeable and obviously love their jobs.  Also, I forgot to mention, they give you a ton of samples on the tour!

Learn more about Theo's tour here!

1 comment:

  1. Love this place -- A favorite stop when my niece and nephew are in town!

    I'd love to read what you do with the nibs. I bought a can myself but don't know what to do with the nibs. (other than eat them!)