Factory tours. We love ‘em. Maybe too much. So far we’ve seen too many breweries and wineries to count; we’ve been to potato chip and ice cream factories; we’ve seen teddy bears and socks made; and even crafted our own kazoo. When we saw the Theo Chocolate factory tour, there was NO question whether we’d be there… it’s a tour and it’s chocolate.
We scheduled our tour while driving to Seattle since they are said to fill up pretty quickly. We were excited for this tour since we missed a chocolate factory tour in Burlington, VT and were very disappointed. The building is located in the heart of the trendy art district called Fremont. We parked and made our way directly to the entrance specifically for the factory tours 24 hours after checking in too early – that’s right we were so excited we arrived on the wrong day!
After forking over $5 each for the tour, we poured on our handsome hairnets and shuffled into a large, plain room with plain folding chairs and a plain map on the wall. Our sickeningly perky twenty-something guide was a startling contrast to the surroundings and immediately offered the first of a few samples, each of which she would describe as “awesome.”
I thought “this is starting off pretty well” until we tasted the first sample which was a very, very dark chocolate that tasted very bitter and not “awesome” at all. The guide, let’s call her “Mindi,” walked us through company’s history and its status as a fair trade organization, organic, blah, blah, blah. Don’t get us wrong, we think fair trade organizations should be applauded and supported above other businesses, it’s just that hearing our “awesome” tour guide tell us how “awesome” free trade is and how “awesome” it is that Theo’s invested in such an “awesome” program, made us a little nauseous – though it might have been from that first sample. We were in the room for 40 of the 60 tour minutes, with four tiny samples of underprocessed cocoa, so maybe we were a little bitter ourselves.
The samples got slightly better but the tour did not. We left the big room only to be herded into a smaller glass encased room where “Mindi” got mic’d up to tell us about the processing floor, which consisted mostly of her pointing at “awesome” machines, some of them were her “favorites” and describing why they were “awesome”. At one point she even said “Okey Dokey Shmemokey.” I was happy when the pain finally ended in the gift shop where we could buy a few gifts for friends and go somewhere less descriptively “awesome.”
If you don’t like dark chocolate or want to bring kids, this tour is not appropriate. If you like dark chocolate and prefer your tours “awesome”, then this is the one.
But seriously, Theo’s is an organization you should support, even if our tour experience was less than stellar.