Go Eat! Theo Chocolate


By Julien Perry

SEATTLE - Need an excuse to dive into all that Easter candy? How about social responsibility?

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That's what Joseph Whinney of Theo Chocolate promotes by offering the first fair-trade certified organic candy in the country.

"I was interested, always, in building a factory and making products because I really felt that there was a quality in chocolate that had never been realized by many of the other chocolate makers," says Joseph.

About 15 years ago, while volunteering with chocolate farmers in Central America, he fell in love with cacao as a crop that could have a positive environmental and economic impact.

"So I contacted all of the chocolate makers in the U.S., I wrote them a letter on a little manual typewriter and said, 'you need to buy organic cocoa; it's really good for the environment, it's really good for the farmers and the wave is coming.' "

Joe moved from Boston to Seattle in 2004, purchased the old Red Hook brewery in Fremont, and began making chocolate in February of last year.

"From cocoa beans all the way to finished product we're kind of munching on chocolate and cocoa all day long."

No oopma loompas though.

"There's nothing in the fair trade standards about Oompa Loompas."

What about Theo?

"Theo is short for Theobroma cacao - food of the gods. That's the scientific name for a cocoa tree."

There are two lines of Theo chocolates.

"Theo chocolate is a single origin dark chocolate, we call out the origins that we use in each bar, and it ranges from a 65 percent Madagascar to a 91 percent Venezuela."

The other is called 3400 Phinney, which is the factory address. Flavors like the chai tea, coconut curry and coffee are favorites. But the best seller may surprise you.

"We have Bread & Chocolate which is organic french bread made by Tall Grass Bakery, toasted with butter and salt and then crunched into dark chocolate."

There's also a line of ganaches and pralines. But Joe's ultimate goal is even sweeter.

"Our commitment to clean, pure ingredients to the experience of chocolate to pushing the envelope on flavor and our commitment to social responsibility, nobody else in this country is doing that today - nobody. That's what we want to do. We want to lead the industry."

Places Joseph likes to Go Eat!: Tilth
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