Sketched Feb. 7, 2012
“We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day in Spain.”
I’ve used that excuse on my wife for the 12 Februarys we’ve been together. But this year, with our 10th wedding anniversary fast approaching, I decided to finally do something about my lousy behavior.
I went to Theo Chocolate well ahead of time so I would have something to show for myself next Tuesday. Since it opened in 2006, the organic chocolate manufacturer has become a national brand while remaining one of the sweetest spots in Fremont.
Not only did I find a gift, I was treated to a chocolate-factory tour and showered with chocolate facts. Roaster Elric McCoy explained he was using this 1930s German machine to “cook the best flavor out of the beans,” and then handed me some to try. They tasted nutty, and I even used some to add color to this sketch.
In the confection kitchen, I drew artisan chocolatiers decorating confections by hand, and sampled the final product — lavender jalapeño caramel! It was so spicy, my wife is sure to find that one worth the wait.
Here are more drawings from my visit to Theo Chocolate.
They call it factory for a reason. Interesting contraptions are used in the process of transforming cacao beans into the little masterpieces that you find in a box of chocolate. You’ve seen that giant roaster above. Now, look at this conveyor belt. Here the confections go through a curtain of liquid chocolate and into a cooling tunnel. I sketched specialty production assistants Jesse Chappelle and Marianne Robertson as they sprinkled each confection with candied corn flour. Robertson said they have just about a second to complete each piece.
From this vantage point, you can see Steve Popplewell carefully dropping the confections onto the conveyor belt. His partner during this shift was Anna Ebage. She said it’s really rewarding to create a product that everybody enjoys.
Next to the confection kitchen is a packing room. That’s where that cooling tunnel ended and where I met Sarah Benner. She said the confections stay in the tunnel for about 6 minutes. As she picks them out, she checks every single one to make sure it’s not defective. As I stood sketching for about 10 minutes, one came out with a little hole. Benner handed it to me to eat, which I did, but not before sketching it first!
Production is stepping up as Valentine’s Day approaches, but everyone said it’s still not as busy as around the Christmas holidays. The pace at the packing room, however, seemed pretty fast to me. Every time I lifted my eyes from my sketchbook many more rows of confections had been lined up on the trays.
I couldn’t leave Theo without sketching their building. The old brick warehouse was just as delightfully sketchable as everything inside.
What has drawn your attention around Seattle lately? Send me your suggestions of interesting places and people to sketch via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. Have a great weekend!