Theo & Chocolate University

Theo Chocolate's 75% Cacao

Seattle is known for many, Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, the legendary Pike Place Market, and delicious microbrews. Taking the city by storm...let's add chocolate to the list.

It's no wonder Seattle played host to the Luxury Chocolate Salon. We've got more than a handful of fabulous artisan chocolatiers, and several destination-worthy chocolate shops.

But just a few years ago, when Joe Whitney bought a former brewery in the funky Fremont neighborhood, more than a few people raised eyebrows. In this unlikely spot, Joe built Theo Chocolate, the first organic chocolate factory in the United States. Thanks to a bit of dumb luck and happenstance, I was in the factory the day they pressed their very first chocolate bar.

The rest, as they say, is history....

Besides their commitment to organic and fair trade, what I respect about Theo Chocolate is their desire to educate the public. For a mere $6, you can tour the factory and gain an insider's perspective on the process. Here you'll learn about chocolate--from the harvest to bar....and enjoy samples galore!

Now, if you're in the Seattle area and you're a chocolate lover, listen up.

This fall, Theo is offering a series of classes, aptly titled Chocolate University. Taught by Theo's Chief Scientist, Dr. Amy McShay, these classes will take an in-depth view of chocolate. I'll be there...and look forward to sharing what I've learned. And if you want in on the action, find details and registration info here.

Theo's Chocolate University

Chocolate 201: Antioxidants and the Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
The consumption of high cacao content chocolate has been associated with positive health benefits ascribed to flavinol antioxidants. Recent reports have implied that not all dark chocolate are created equal. We investigate the difference between the varieties of dark chocolate and why these differences might exist. We investigate antioxidants in the diet, how they are measured, and review clinical data associated with the consumption of chocolate.

Chocolate 202: Cacao Origins, Cacao genetics and the fermentation process
Three major varietals of Theobroma cacao (the cacao tree) are recognized in chocolate making: Criollo, Forestero and Trinitario. Analysis of the DNA of Cacao suggests that there are more than 1400 varieties of Cacao, implying that the genetic diversity is very high, although the majority of Chocolate is blended to improve consistency. In many ways, varietal and vintage trends in Chocolate resemble trends in the winemaking industry. We investigate genetics and diversity of Cacao and discuss how origin, genetics, and fermentation process influence the flavor of Chocolate.

Chocolate 203: The Chemistry of Chocolate Making
Recent advances in analytical techniques have provided insight into the molecular composition of Chocolate. The chemistry of Chocolate changes significantly during the fermentation, roasting, milling, and conching process of Chocolate making. We review the steps of industrial chocolate making in detail and investigate how modern analytical techniques have provided a unique insight into the 400 or so molecules that make up the exquisite and complex flavors in chocolate.