Hearing the words “chocolate factory” almost always conjures up images of the movie “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” for me.
So of course, upon hearing Joe Chocolate Co. co-founder and CEO Sam Tanner talk about the tubes coming out of a 500-pound tank filled with melted chocolate and running up, along the ceiling, through their floating menu and down into a spigot to be dispensed for sipping chocolate and coffee drinks, I gasped, “Like Willy Wonka!”
“Straight up Willy Wonka,” Tanner replies with a laugh, before telling me he already has a request from someone to sip Augustus Gloop-style directly from the spigot, although the chances of that happening are quite slim.
Joe Chocolate Co. — which plans to hold its grand opening on June 1 — joins indi chocolate as two intriguing spots in Pike Place Market to get your Wonka on. Whatever your pleasure, the two decidedly Wonkalike factories at the Market are sure to more than satisfy your next craving for chocolate.
Joe got its start while Tanner and co-founder Peter Keckemet were attending UW’s Foster School of Business and “didn’t really have a reason to be making candy, we were just caffeinating people,” Tanner says.
Then their friend, Lucas, started hiking the Pacific Coast Trail and needed a fat, calorie-rich, caffeinated product as fuel. Tanner started sending him bags of what would become Joe — chocolate infused with coffee (the caffeine equivalent of about a shot of espresso in each ounce of chocolate) and topped with everything from honey almonds to salted caramel.
In 2015 they took the plunge and became full-time chocolate makers, starting with wholesale. They signed a lease for their current space at Pike Place Market in March 2018 and began construction on their new chocolate factory this past winter.
“We designed this space with the idea of showcasing our production and the Venn diagram where coffee and chocolate meet. Our whole thing has really been exploring the cross-section between functional and fancy, coffee and chocolate,” Tanner says.
Walk out the doors of Joe, located at Pike Place and Stewart Street, head through the North Arcade and across Western to the Market’s newest addition, the MarketFront, and you’ll land squarely at indi chocolate.
One of only a handful of bean-to-bar chocolate companies in Washington, indi got its start in 2010 when founder and chocolatier Erin Andrews started making chocolate lotion for her daughter’s sensitive skin in her kitchen. Although she jokes that indi is “the most backward chocolate company ever,” in the past nine years it has grown into a serious chocolate company known for single-origin chocolate bars as well as a playground where people can expand their ideas of what chocolate can be.
“When people come in and they go, ‘It’s a chocolate bar,’ I say ‘Is it? What if it’s something you can put on your steak?’” Andrews says.
This translates into confections like bars, bonbons and truffles, but also chocolate spice rubs, infusion kits and an expanded line of chocolate body-care products.
In 2013 the company moved into a 400-square-foot space in the Market, tucked in the bowels of the Main Arcade. In July 2017, indi moved into a nearly 2,000-square-foot space as part of the MarketFront expansion. The new space was big enough to accommodate a from-scratch factory and a cafe for community to gather.
The community Andrews has built at indi is excited about chocolate, and so much more. She hosts dinners, pairing events and chocolate classes, but also workshops and experiences that have nothing to do with food; a small-business series, an art exhibit with the YMCA showcasing pieces from the Accelerator YMCA program and more.
From roasting and cracking cacao beans to the three-day process of turning the roasted nibs into chocolate by mixing them with a little cocoa butter and sugar, everything unfolds front and center behind the glass walls that divide the factory from the store.
There are no other ingredients added to the chocolate, meaning “the beans have nothing to hide behind,” Andrews says.
The same goes for the factory.
“If you really want to watch us while we wash our dishes, you can,” Andrews says.
That transparency is another thing indi has in common with Joe Chocolate Co. and Tanner. That 500-pound machine melting chocolate also has a pipe that runs directly into a tempering tank, where the chocolate is heated and cooled to specific temperatures. When the process is finished, the chocolate will have a shiny finish and snap when broken.
Tempered chocolate will then be poured in 3½-pound increments into bowls where inclusions are added before it is then poured into slabs and broken into Joe’s signature shards. All of it takes place behind glass for the masses to witness.
“Visibility for how we treat our ingredients and how we treat our employees is incredibly important. We wanted to showcase the care and deliberation we put into our chocolate,” Tanner says.
While indi chocolate makes chocolate in a holistic bean-to-bar process, Joe Chocolate Co. buys fair-labor standard, fair-trade dark-chocolate chips from a single farmer in Ecuador.
In addition to making the coffee-spiked “functional chocolate” Joe has become known for, the shop also serves cookies, brownies, coconut macaroons and ice-cream sandwiches.
“A huge highlight of the menu is ice-cream sandwiches,” Tanner says.
Fresh snickerdoodles, Joe Chocolate chip, oatmeal and brownie cookies are mixed and baked daily, sandwiching custom ice cream from Whidbey Island Ice Cream Co. with Joe inclusions (honey almonds, double salted caramel, honey swirl, vanilla), dipped in chocolate and rolled in more inclusions.
There’s also the sipping chocolate, cold brew, a Thai iced coffee slushy, locally sourced beer and wine, an Israeli soda called gazoz similar to an Italian soda, and a full espresso menu.
“Bites, buzz, brews,” Tanner says.
May 23, 5 p.m. editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Joe Chocolate Co. has now pushed its grand opening date back to June 1.