50 States Collaboration – Washington / indi chocolate + Theo Chocolate

Since Time to Eat Chocolate wrote about Florida yesterday, I decided to feature a state that is diagonally on the opposite side of the country: Washington!

Thanks again to Jess (aka the Seattle Dessert Geek) for helping to shop for chocolates in her hometown! In addition to sending me a variety of chocolates, she sent a super cute hand-drawn card with the penguin avatar from my Instagram handle @myic2016!

First up is a mini single-origin tasting “pod” in the shape of a, you guessed it, halved teaspoon-sized cacao pod packaged in a re-sealable plastic pouch…as if there could ever be any leftovers! 😉

All of indi’s single-origin chocolates are made with just three ingredients: cacao, sugar and cacao butter and, although it’s not stated on the packaging, this Nicaragua pod is made from 72% cacao.

Due to the size and shape of this chocolate, I wasn’t able to “snap” the piece, so I forgot to smell the chocolate after I bit into it! 🙁

I think this was the first time tasting Nicaraguan chocolate, so I regret not sniffing it before eating the whole pod. The flavor was earthy and reminded me of black olives. The slow and mostly smooth melt finished with a slightly tannic aftertaste.

Next is a single-origin mini bar made from Orecao beans.

The country of origin isn’t listed on the packaging, but their website reveals that it is Ecuadorian. I remember this being one of the Heirloom Cacao Preservation “Designation 7” chocolates that I tried last year. If you are interested in learning more about HCP, here is the link to that post.

Though the bar sustained some damage in transit and there was a bit of chocolate “dust” marring the surface, it’s hard not to be captivated by the decorative multi-segment bar depicting leaves as well as whole and cracked opened cacao pods.

Since I had neglected to smell the last bar, I made sure to pay attention this one! To me, there seemed to be a faint “industrial” aroma, but thankfully that didn’t really transfer to the taste of the chocolate itself. Overall the chocolate looked a little dry in appearance and had a sharp snap when breaking it into tasting morsels.

I experienced a grainy mouthfeel and the piece melted slowly on my tongue. Interestingly, the taste seemed to change depending on how I ate the piece: when “chomped,” the flavor reminded me of raisins, but when I melted a piece in my mouth, I was reminded of a hard rind cheese! Afterwards, there was a long-lingering astringent/chalky aftertaste.

indi chocolate is best kept secret of Pike Place Market…but now YOU know! They are currently located on the 5th floor, but it sounds like soon they will be moving to the new Market Front (Spring 2017), so be sure to check out their website for more details: https://indichocolate.com/

One of my current favorite inclusion ingredients at the moment is breadcrumbs, so I couldn’t miss trying a 70% dark chocolate Bread & Chocolate bar which is a twist on a pain au chocolate breakfast viennoiserie and is part of Theo Chocolate’s “fantasy line.”

My only complaint with Theo’s bars is that the outer packaging is sealed so tightly, that it’s impossible to open the wrapper without ripping it. Being ingenious, I ended up using a letter opener to slice the informational sticker from the paper. While it used to bother me when the inner foil encasing the bar itself was folded with the outer wrapper, I now realize that it’s a much neater way to keep both layers crisply folded.

The “back” side of the bar is mottled with tiny dots that appear to be the beginnings of bloom and there were also plenty of large lumps poking out, showing that Theo was generous with the inclusion ingredients!

Though not pictured, this mini bar is made with a 4 rectangle mold and there was a matte finish to the “top side” of the chocolate. Breaking off one of the large rectangles produced a dull snap & little flecks of chocolate flew everywhere. So many nooks and crannies and chunks of bread!

The crunchy, lightly salted, creamy, not-too-sweet bar had a toasted butter aroma that begs to be chomped NOT melted! I would have loved to have known the origin of the chocolate, though perhaps it was a blend?

Just last week, as part of my separate Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project, I featured a different Theo bar, please follow this link if you are interested in reading more about that adventure.

Theo Chocolates can often be found at Bristol Farms and/or Whole Foods Markets in Southern California, but you can always order directly through their website: https://www.theochocolate.com/

Remember to follow the Time to Eat Chocolate blog to hear about the next stop in the “50 States” project!

Other chocolate makers in Washington:

Bellflower Chocolate Company


Tease Chocolates

NOTE: If you know of any other bean-to-bar makers in Washington that aren’t mentioned above, please leave a comment or send an email so that we can keep this list as up-to-date as possible!

A Tale of Two Horchatas

Let me start off by saying that I love horchata! There is one that I still dream about from a Puerto Rican restaurant in North Hollywood that makes theirs with ground sesame seeds. But the one that is, for me, the paragon of all horchatas comes from a small mole restaurant in the Maravilla neighborhood of East Los Angeles. Their horchata is made Oaxacan-style, drizzled with fuscia-colored cactus-fruit syrup, rimmed with pink sugar and topped with roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds). <drool>

However, when I started looking for unusual inclusion ingredients to feature as part of the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet series, horchata never really crossed my mind. This non-alcoholic beverage is typical in Central and South American restaurants, but is also available in Spain. Each country has their own style and a plethora of different ingredients can be used for the flavoring. Some call for milk, others water. Until I started discovering that this drink could be made with ground nuts or seeds, my only experience had been with the ground rice and cinnamon variety.

Shortly after visiting the Mast Brothers factory in Downtown LA, I heard they were selling a Los Angeles collection that included an horchata bar! When one of my friends texted me that she was at the Artisanal LA holiday market in December, I sent her on a quest to find some bars for me. Please don’t write to me and ask if I’ve read the scathing 4-part DallasFood.org exposé articles about Mast Brothers’ chocolate…the answer is yes, and I refer you back to the beginning of this post: I LOVE HORCHATA (that and I’m a sucker for chocolate bars that are part of an “exclusive” collection…I blame my boyfriend for corrupting me in that regard)! 😉

As always, the Mast Brothers’ packaging could easily double as an abstract art print. The thick textured paper of this bar has bold swaths of neutral, earth-tone colors and is credited as “artwork by Block Shop Textiles.”

Like all the other bars that I’ve seen, the back of the package has a center justified, line-by-line list of ingredients.

The cacao is called out simply as 58%, without a country of origin; so if you’re inquisitive (like me), you search on their website to discover that Tanzanian beans were used for this bar. Peeling back the informational sticker to unfold the packaging, you’ll see a gold foil wrapped bar made from a standard 28-rectangle mold.

Not surprisingly, the primary aroma is that of cinnamon, though there is also a nutty scent as well. Segmenting some pieces, there was a soft and slightly brittle snap.

The mouthfeel is certainly not smooth, but not gritty like stone ground/minimally processed cacao either. Despite the addition of cocoa butter, the chocolate seems disappointingly dry instead of creamy. There is a muted tang from the buttermilk; but, overall, this bar falls short of the flavor I would expect to justifiably represent the diverse and vibrant Hispanic culinary tapestry within the city of Los Angeles.

As you might know, I’m also currently working on a “50 States” collaboration project with Time to Eat Chocolate. To save on shipping costs, I volunteered to cover Washington since it’s geographically closer to me. Also, lucky for me, I have a Washington expert in my arsenal…for who better knows about the “sweets scene” than a dessert blogger! Jess, aka the Seattle Dessert Geek, was instrumental in acquiring some chocolates for me since apparently there are some Theo Chocolate flavors that never make it out of the city. As a shameless plug for my other project, stay tuned when I cover two different bean-to-bar chocolate makers from Washington soon!

Sorry for veering off on a tangent there…now back to this post! During Jess’ day-after-Valentines’ shopping trip, we were both surprised to discover that one of Theo’s new flavors is Cinnamon Horchata! So instead of keeping that bar for the collaboration project, I decided to feature it with my other horchata bar; though, in retrospect, maybe it wasn’t a fair side-by-side comparison :0

As mentioned, this 45% milk chocolate bar is one of the newer additions to their “Fantasy Bar” line. The colorful illustration on the packaging (as well as the name) shows that cinnamon will be prominently featured; but what I didn’t realize until reading the ingredients is that it would also include crisped brown rice and crisped quinoa. One of my only complaints, aside from the fact that the first ingredient listed is sugar, is that the foil was wrapped with the external paper and the folds were sealed so tightly that I had to practically mutilate the outer band to get to the chocolate bar.

As you can see the bar is just bulging with crispy crunchy goodness and who doesn’t love a bar with crunch?!

Here are a couple of close ups of the inclusion ingredients: the first showing the crisped rice peeking out from a segmented piece & the second showing a small lump of un-dispersed ground cinnamon:

This is a relatively small bar, just 4 large horizontal rectangles. While cinnamon is the initial aroma, you also can’t miss a milky sweet, caramel scent to the chocolate. Breaking off one of the rectangles produced a brittle snap and tiny shards tended to fly everywhere! Don’t even try to melt this bar, chomp away blissfully, combining creamy with crunchy!

Of the two horchata bars that I tasted, Theo was the winner for me! Now if someone could figure out a way to combine chocolate with either of the two horchata drinks that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, THAT would be the BEST of times!