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The business was established in 2006 by Jeff Fairhall and Joe Whinney in the Fremont, Seattle neighborhood. The business is located in a former brewery building at 3400 Phinney Avenue.
Jeff Fairhall, the founder of Seattle's Essential Baking Company, invested in establishing Theo Chocolate with Joe Whinney. When he was in his early 20s, Whinney volunteered with a small conservation foundation in Southern Belize that was looking at the way that communities cultivated their crops. He discovered a passion for the Theobroma cacao plant and wanted to get into the business while supporting the farmers, and contacted 10 bean processors. One responded. While providing this business with organic materials and customers, Whinney was able to start saving up for a chocolate business of his own.
The business struggled to find a good supply of organic cocoa beans and came to a halt in 2002. After finding an interested investor in Seattle, Washington, the decision was made to build the Theo Chocolate factory, named after the Theobroma cacao tree.
Between 2004-2006 Fairhall sold all of his other business interests, retaining only Theo Chocolate. He published more than 30 advertisements in The Stranger about various religious ideas, revelations, and conspiracy theories. He also acknowledged using magic mushrooms. Fairhall died of brain cancer in 2007.
The chocolate process begins by sorting and roasting the beans to develop a specific flavor. Each load of roasted beans is different and needs different roasting times to achieve the correct taste for that specific batch of chocolate. After reaching their correct sweetness, the beans are milled into broken down bits; this is the foundation of the chocolate. The next step in the process is called milling. This is where the broken bits go through a series of milling that separates cocoa butter from cocoa solids. After 12 hours, mixing begins. Sugar and non-alcoholic cocoa liquor are added to the chocolate mixture and then refined to make sure it is the correct texture and taste. This mixture is then conched. Once the chocolate develops its flavor, organic ingredients such as fruit, nuts, chilies, bread, and salt are added to make specific batches of Theo Chocolate bars. Once the chocolate is fully roasted and milled, and appropriate ingredients are added, the chocolate is then molded and packaged. Liquid chocolate is poured into molds then hand-checked by factory workers before it is wrapped and shipped.
Theo Chocolate sells chocolate bars in six different categories: Classic, Fantasy, Limited Edition, Baking, Kids' Crunch and Holiday. The company also sells caramels and specialty items.
Theo Chocolate has been recognized with many awards from a variety of notable sources. Below is a list of a few of Theo Chocolate's awards:
- The WebMD Outstanding Dark Chocolate (2009)
- The O, The Oprah Magazine Best List (2008)
- Food Network's Top Hottest Chocolate Companies (2007)
- Seattle Magazine Best of (2006, 2007, 2009, 2010)
- "Fair Trade Gambit. (Cover Story)." Candy Industry 171.9 (2006): 18. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 23 Oct. 2012.
- "Cocoa Beans". theochocolate.com.
- Motavalli, Jim (2007). "Sweet Dreams". The Environmental Magazine. 18 (6). pp. 42–43.
- Wilson, H.W. (October 22, 2012). General Science.
- Richman, Dan (19 September 2007). "Jeff Fairhall, 1958-2007: Entrepreneur pioneered healthful food to go - seattlepi.com". seattlepi.com. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
- Gilmore, Susan (September 21, 2007). "Local News | Jeff Fairhall, owner of Essential Baking Co., dies at 49". seattletimes.com. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
- Theo. Theo Chocolates, n.p. Web. 19 Oct. 2012.
- "Chocolate Bars". Theo. Retrieved 2017-06-01.
- "Theo Chocolate". Cengage.