In my recent tour of the Theo Chocolate Factory and interview with Debra Music, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, I had the lucky opportunity to sample an array of some of their finest chocolates. Among them were three that Deb presented to me as we spoke.
“This one is a Ghost Chili caramel,” she explained, handing me a small square of chocolate topped with cayenne. “It’s a buttery caramel infused with ghost chili which is purported to be the hottest chili in the world.” Then she added with a laugh, “although something is purported to have usurped it, I don’t know, I can’t keep up with that!” I bit into it and tasted a luscious caramel with just a bite of heat that slowly intensified as it melted in my mouth. “But it’s a really nice balance,” she continued, “it’s sort of a kick that you get in the end. And this has won the SOFI [Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation Award] for Outstanding Confection.”
I then tried the Burnt Sugar Ganache. “It’s really delicious,” she said as I bit into what is one of the best chocolates I have ever tasted. I asked if it was a milk chocolate, given the light brown coloring of the ganache, and she surprised me with the answer. “It’s white chocolate, [with] caramelized sugar on the inside. I think that one won a medal at the London Academy of Chocolate Awards, I can’t remember, I think it did.” (She was wrong, this fantastic chocolate was apparently topped by four other Theo chocolates – and their sipping chocolates – which won the prestigious awards; indeed, it is no wonder she could not remember, with Theo bringing home awards as often as the rest of us bring home the groceries.)
Heartbroken as I finished the last bite of my Burnt Sugar Ganache (though I can taste it as if it were in my mouth this very minute), I turned to the “Big Daddy” – a huge square of chocolate that took up the whole palm of my hand.
“This is our Big Daddy,” Deb laughed, “It’s like an enrobed s’more. It has a layer of handmade graham cracker – everything’s made in our kitchen – a layer of handmade caramel, and a layer of handmade marshmallow, all enrobed in chocolate. Isn’t that fun?” It was indeed fun, and the trio of Big Daddy’s she sent me home with were gobbled up by my daughter who declared them her favorite.
As we toured the factory, large sheets of caramels and chocolates were stacked high, and the 55 employees of Theo are encouraged to try them all so that they know just how good they are and can answer any customer’s questions about the large variety of chocolates Theo sells. A rose truffle topped with a generous slice of candied ginger was particularly tasty, and the salted caramels something I could pop into my mouth all day long. I asked her what the average weight gain of a new employee was and Deb, as slim as a Beverly Hills teenager said, “You know, it’s funny but we don’t gain weight,” to which an employee immediately corrected her with “Ten pounds! Ten pounds is the average! But we’re not complaining!” Everyone laughed as trays of pink and grey salted vanilla caramels were hoisted onto a tall metal rack heavy with chocolates heading for stores and mouths throughout the nation.
But the taste of Theo is just one small, albeit luscious, step of a social trajectory from the tropical farms of Africa, Central and South America to the eager hands of those of us lucky enough to enjoy the pleasures of the hand crafted bean to bar chocolates. Next up, where Theo Chocolates envisions going from here. Stay tuned!