Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Touring while Local: Tour de Chocolate with the Chocolate Box

The Northwest has gone through a boom in all things sugar related: Cupcakes, ice cream, macarons, and, yes, chocolate. In one of my previous posts, I called out Indi Chocolate as a great new addition to the Pike Place Market, but just outside of the market itself is another haven for chocolate: The Chocolate Box.

In addition to being a shop featuring Northwest chocolates (and wine), the Chocolate Box also offers tours featuring the favorite confection. In my case, I went on the Tour de Chocolate, one of their most popular options. It features a hands on (literally) chocolate making course, drinking chocolate, a "Cocoa 101" short course on the origins of chocolate, and a chauffeured trip and tour of the Theo Chocolate factory in Fremont (complete with lots of samples). It was two and a half hours of guided chocolate tasting, viewing, and making all starting from a convenient location next to the Market. For visitors tight on time and with love of chocolate, this is a good way to taste some of the local chocolates and visit Theo chocolate without the hassle of a bus or renting a car.

The tour starts out at the shop where the owner, the knowledgeable and passionate Michel Brotman (seen above with his wife and fellow chocolate lover, Valerie), provides everyone with a taste of drinking chocolate and leads a 15-20 minute discussion on chocolate and the origins of chocolate, the cocoa plant. You'll get a feel of the process of making chocolate from fruit to bean before heading off to see one of Seattle's best known chocolate factories.

If you have never heard of Theo Chocolate... they're good. Really good. This part of the tour is similar to the regular factory tour offered by Theo, but does give a behind the scenes look at a gourmet, fair trade, bean-to-bar production line. Led by the experts from Theo, you work your way through all of the different stages of making their chocolate bars until you get to... the gift shop, which features samples of everything. My personal favorites are fig, fennel, and almond and vanilla nib (which may be limited time). For the more adventurous, there is also coconut curry and spicy chili chocolate! I haven't seen a curry chocolate bar anywhere else, so this is a must try (although maybe not a must buy).

Once the tour is over, we head back to the Chocolate Box for the hands-on part of the tour. Every tour ends with you going home with a bar of chocolate, but the twist is that you make your own. There are tons of toppings to choose from to come up with your own style of chocolate bar. You also get to temper your own chocolate by hand, resulting in a tour full of messy hands. Then again, everyone secretly wants to do this, right? How often are you encouraged to get your hands covered in chocolate and then not to waste any of the chocolate?

Overall, the tour is great fun for a chocolate lover and a very convenient way to see Theo Chocolate. For visitors who don't want to deal with the hassle of a car or the bus, getting to Fremont can be a bit of a detour but the transfer included with the tour can make that an easy and enjoyable side trip. In particular, the hands on activities are great for couples and kids (On our tour we had an aspiring chef who looked to be about 10 who was very interested in the whole process).

If you keep an eye out for deals and have a little luck, you can also score a deal on a tour with the Chocolate Box. Deals have been known to pop up online and most recently, the chocolate and wine tour was featured as a killer deal on (which is a website offering deals on dates for couples). Alternatively, you can book a private tour for $299 for up to 10 people, giving you half off per person if you fill it up.

That's it for now! You can find out more about the Chocolate Box and the tours they offer on their website here.

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