Seattle Confectioners Excel in the Fine Art of Chocolate Making

By L.M. Archer, Foodable Contributor

Forget Willie Wonka. In Seattle, chocolate isn't just an industry - it's an obsession. Join FoodableTV for a taste through five of Seattle’s favorite chocolatiers that leave consumers craving for more.

Fran’s Chocolates

Long considered the doyen of the United States’ artisan chocolate movement, Fran Bigelow opened her first patisserie and chocolate shop in Seattle in 1982. Fran’s passion for the fine art of chocolate ignited with a visit to Paris, where she learned about precision, elegance, and the importance of purveying the purest ingredients to produce her European-style truffles and salted caramels.

Fran’s empire now includes four boutiques in the Seattle and Eastside, and an expanded product line which includes an assortment of fruits, bars, seasonal, favor, corporate, and boxed gift items.

Theo Chocolates

Theo Chocolates introduced the first Fair-Trade certified, sustainable, organic, non-GMO, small-batch, high-quality chocolates in the United States in 2006.

The brainchild of Joe Whinney, an organic cocoa bean supplier, Theo Chocolates launched from the funky Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, founded on a passion for chocolate, and a love for the remote lands and indigenous peoples of Central America and Africa.

All ingredients are scrutinized and third party verified to ensure they meet Theo’s exacting standards for social and environmental responsibility. Additionally, Theo Chocolates partners with businesses and organizations that espouse their beliefs in social and community responsibility, including Eastern Congo Initiative, Jane Goodall Institute, World Bicycle Relief, and PCC Farmland Trust.

Theo Chocolates touts: “For us, chocolate isn’t just a product, it’s a journey from bean to bar.” Consumers’ response to this mantra? A resounding ring at the register.

Forte Artisan Chocolates

Forte Artisan Chocolates hand-crafts obsession-worthy artisan chocolates incorporating a ‘symphony’ of flavors ranging from savory to seductive, using only the freshest ingredients available.

Founded in 2006 by award-winning Master Chocolatier Karen Neugebauer, Forte Artisan Chocolates offers consumers an opportunity to celebrates life with a broad array of meticulously blended bars, truffles, caramels, barks, and nuts, and connoisseur chocolates, made from a mélange of exotic herbs, spices, and honeys.

This includes the new Volta line of exotic bars - small-batch, single-origin chocolates that showcase the unique flavors endemic to regional cacao ‘terroirs.' Other favorites include perennial award-winners Forte White Swan Espresso Bar and the savory Gusto Bacon Bar.

Seattle International Chocolate Salon

Every July, the Seattle International Chocolate Salon draws artisan, gourmet & premium chocolate producers together with Seattle chocolate fanatics for tastings, presentations, and demonstrations.

Now in its eighth year, the 2015 Seattle International Chocolate Salon features standout chocolatiers like Cordon-Bleu trained Artisan Firehouse Chocolates and vegan truffle maker Chef Michael D. Poole of Hot Chocolat, Whoopi Goldberg-favorite William Dean Chocolatier, mind-blowing flavor combinations concocters Evolve Truffles, newcomer Tease Chocolates featuring their sold-out Dark Arts bar, and luxury truffle maker SELEUSS. Presenters this year included esteemed Art Pollard of Amano Chocolates, Aaron Barthel of Intrigue Chocolates, and Erin Andrews of indi chocolate.

Northwest Chocolate Festival

Each October, top-tier chocolate makers, pastry chefs, and confectioners travel from over thirty countries to converge with Seattle chocolate aficionados. Founded by impresario Brian Cisneros in 2008, the impetus for Northwest Chocolate Festival stems for a desire to connect chocolate lovers with small scale chocolate makers and companies that practice transparent sourcing for cacao.

The NW Chocolate Festival takes place October 3-4 at Bell Harbor Pier and features breakout sessions on Bean to Bar Makers, Chocolate Confectioners and Pastry, and Special Exhibitor categories. This year, the event will also introduce NW Chocolate Week one week prior, with a focus on education and workshops.

For the second year in a row, the NW Chocolate Festival also hosts The Chocolate Makers UnConference, a forum for the community of trade and industry chocolate making professionals deciding to discuss issues and challenges (and successes!) in chocolate making and cacao sourcing. Last year, 115 industry professionals from 30 countries joined The Chocolate Makers UnConference.