Marilyn Monroe had it all wrong. Chocolate is a girl’s best friend these days, not diamonds. The food of the gods makes good trading stock, can improve bad days and ease heartbreak, is beautiful to the trained and untrained eye, and just might be the secret to the fountain of youth. If Dr. Oz says chocolate can help you look and feel younger, then I’m all in.
Consequently, Tease Chocolates in Tacoma’s Stadium district has become my new health food store. Taste one of their Maker’s Mark truffles, chocolate-covered caramels with sea salt (Fleur-del-sel) or straight-up chocolate bars and you too may be willing to supplement your daily apple, dose of cod liver oil or bottle of kombucha with these delectable treats. I haven’t heard any health claims for caramel, but surely their ghost chili caramel does something to improve your health by bringing a smile to your lips.
My husband and I discovered this local entrepreneur in the spring of 2015 after dining in the area. The door was open and the scent of chocolate waved us inside. I rationalized that an epicurean chocolate would be the perfect complement to my other recently consumed health food – red wine. We were greeted by master chocolatier and owner Julie Farrell. She told us that the chocolate boutique wasn’t open yet and suggested we come back in June for their grand opening. We went next door to Stadium Thriftway and slummed it with a Kit Kat.
I anxiously awaited the grand opening over the next few months, returning on my lunch hour to salivate over the handcrafted chocolate confections, chocolate bars, and various flavored caramels. They are edible gems almost too exquisite to eat. Yet I couldn’t abstain. I consumed a sample, purchased a truffle for the road and took a box home. Well, not the entire box.
Although running a chocolate shop sounds like more fun than a day full of meetings, I realized that it’s no stroll in the park after recently speaking with Tease Chocolate owners Topher and Julie Farrell. Although Julie enjoyed preparing desserts since childhood and “just felt the calling” to become a chocolatier, their romantic-sounding chocolate business evolved over several years of training, business planning, trial-and-error marketing attempts, and just plain old hard work.
During the 2007 financial crisis, the couple left the area for Julie’s killer technical writing job in Chicago. The timing was bad so it didn’t work out. Yet they were stuck in Wisconsin until they earned the money to get home. The couple pulled themselves up by their boot straps and recreated themselves. Topher started a video company for follow-along fitness programs. Julie enrolled in the Ecole Chocolate school while she worked at an industrial chocolate maker factory in Wisconsin. Three years later she completed the Master Chocolatier Program and they returned to the west coast for her internships at CocoaNymph in Vancouver, British Columbia and then Theo Chocolates in Seattle. Topher closed his business and went to work for a guitar pickup manufacturer on Vashon Island.
They continued to pursue their chocolate business dream. They took small business classes through Ventures. They participated in farmers markets up to five a week at times. They peddled their wares at local chocolate events such as the Washington Artisan Cheesemakers Festival, Friday at the Fort, the Pike ChocoFest at the Pike Brewing Company, and Seattle Chocolate Salon. At the Seattle Chocolate Salon show they received the following people’s choice awards: gold for best milk chocolate, silver for most delicious ingredient combinations, silver for best traditional chocolates and bronze for best caramels.
All that focus came to fruition with the opening of the appropriately named Tease Chocolates retail space in June 2015. They not only offer chocolate confections made from Guittard and Callebaut chocolate, but sell bars created from chocolate made in their shop. Yes, they are bean-to-bar with aspirations to eventually source their creations entirely from their own chocolate. Their beans originate from cacao farms in Tanzania, Madagascar, Trinidad, and the Dominican Republic. Topher makes the beans into chocolate by roasting them, separating the shells from the nibs, grinding them into a paste and adding sweeteners such as honey or coconut sugar or no sugar at all. He then molds them into bars and packages them in colorful wrappers. They also create private label whiskey truffles, make promotional items and take special orders.
These creations really defy description though. They’re a hands-on experience. Tastings are at 610 N 1st Street in Tacoma Wednesdays through Fridays 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturdays noon to 5:00 p.m. Tease Chocolates are also sold at Whole Foods, Tacoma Boys, Thriftway, Café Brosseau, Cosmonaut Coffee, and Ventures in Pike Place Market.
610 N 1st Street
Tacoma, WA 98403