In our house, chocolate is a food group. No, I’m serious. I have a 4-year-old who is The Most Picky Eater in the World. He currently lives on Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Lara Bars, Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter sandwiches and Pediasure chocolate shakes.
Being a good farm-to-table locavore mom (ok, except for the Pediasure), I knew it was my job to show him where chocolate comes from. But, how? Imagine my relief when Theo Chocolate finally debuted a tour for tykes this summer.
Since its inception, the Fremont chocolatier has been educating adults and older kids about the origins and craft of making organic, fair trade chocolate. But little ones - the under 6 crowd - were largely left out. Until now. The weekly tour is recommended for kids 4 to 7 years old and lasts about 45 minutes. Each child is required to have an adult chaperone.
We made reservations online and arrived for our Saturday afternoon tour ($8 each) with three other families and a total of six kiddos. After checking in, we were asked to use a lint brush (great sensory fun for my preschooler) on our clothes and handed two blue hair nets (not so much fun). Thank you to the Japanese mom who took pity on me and offered him a sliver of pizza gummy to stop screaming and put on the damn hair net.
Soon, we were escorted to a lovely room adjacent to the warehouse and decorated with a map showing all the different regions (Peru, Panama, Democratic Republic of Congo) from which Theo sources its cocoa beans. The ceiling was made to look like it was covered with a canopy of cacao trees. His arty preschool teachers would love this, I thought.
On the counter, bowls overflowed with different kinds of Theo chocolate - from milk and dark to chai and sea salt. I was surprised at how calmly our kids took their seats, their noses acutely aware of goodies nearby. From there, using laminated pages, our tour guide told the story of a girl named Molly and her father who loved to eat chocolate together and embarked on a journey to find out chocolate’s origins.
Our kids were mesmerized that chocolate came from trees and started out as almond-looking beans. They liked hearing about the relationship between the cocoa farmers and chocolatier. They got to touch the whole beans and sample the cocoa nibs inside. Cue mostly wrinkled noses and one 5-year-old who eagerly accepted seconds. Show off.
After the storytime, we entered the warehouse, where we were introduced to all of the fancy machinery that is used to roast, mill, and conch until the heavenly rich chocolate goodness emerges, and is then molded and packaged. All in all, the experience was engaging and age appropriate. Our tour ended with smiles, one bar for each of us and a coloring sheet for the kids to make their very own chocolate bar wrappers.
Who am I kidding? The tour really ended in the retail store, where we stocked up on a few necessities. Didn't I mention? The Kids Crunch bars have quinoa in them.