If you’re fortunate enough to have a lover, potential candidate or special friend, this is a gentle reminder that Valentine’s Day is less than two weeks away. (No pressure, right?) If you want Cupid on your good side, don’t forget to do something thoughtful for the object of your affection. Saying I love you, I like you, or I want to get to know you with chocolate, caramel, or sweets of any persuasion is a classic Valentine’s gift option that shouldn’t be overlooked. Nor should purchasing from local factories to ensure freshness.

Below is list of confectioners that are etched in Tacoma’s history or fiercely competing for a spot.

Brown & Haley

Brown and Haley
Brown & Haley Outlet Stores Manager Chris Carson stands near the candy kettles previously used at the Tacoma factory, which are now displayed at their Fife outlet store. Photo credit: Michelle Robinson

Prior to becoming partners, Harry L. Brown owned a confectionary and J.C. Haley worked for Shilling spice company. In 1912, they combined sugar and spice to create everything nice – a candy company – currently led by Anne Haley, J.C.’s granddaughter. In 1915, they created Mount Tacoma Bars (chocolate peanut treats with cream centers). Today, those same treats are known as Mountain Bars and are offered with cherry, vanilla or peanut butter centers. In 1923, they presented Almond Roca buttercrunch toffee – log-shaped bars coated with chocolate and diced almonds now offered in seven flavors. The gold foil-wrapped confections packaged in a pink tin quickly went global becoming a favorite of US troops overseas and a popular Chinese New Year gift.

All products are manufactured at their Tacoma factory. You can purchase from their factory outlets or various retail distributors.

Factory Outlet Store: 110 East 26th Street, Tacoma
Fife Outlet Store and Gift Shop: 3500-C 20th Street East, Fife

Wear Roca pink on Tuesdays to receive a 10% discount.

Johnson Candy Company

Johnson Candy Company Tacoma
Johnson Candy Company father-and-son team, Ron and Bill Johnson, help each other keep this mom-and-pop candy store and gift shop running. Photo credit: Michelle Robinson

This family-run shop established by Russell Johnson in 1925 won a 2017 Best Chocolate Award and was ranked #7 of 55. The shop is a blast from the past, complete with jazz music playing in the background and helpers adorned in red and white striped aprons. Johnson’s is a Hilltop neighborhood fixture that’s still managed by Russell’s son Ron and Ron’s son Bill. Chocolatier Bill performs his magic in their small factory above the store.

The menu reflects the original recipes purchased by Russell from a downtown candy shop for $100: divinity, rocky road, pecan rolls, peanut brittle, fudge, buttercrunch, sea foam, melt-a-ways, creams, raisin and nut clusters and caramel-coated chocolates with nuts (aka Turtles). Dark chocolates, sea salt caramels, truffles, sugar-free confections, hard candy and jelly beans round out the assortment.

You can walk in to make a purchase or call in your order and have it shipped. I recommend the visit, so you can design your own assortment if you wish and peruse the gift shop.

Location: 924 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma

Tease Chocolates

Tease Chocolates
The truffle assortment from Tease Chocolates is a work of art. You’re missing out if you think they’re too good to eat though. Photo credit: Michelle Robinson

Tease Chocolates was founded in 2011 by Julie and Topher Farrell, and was also awarded a 2017 Best Chocolate Award, ranking #1 of 55. Word of Julie’s chocolate works of art spread from their presence at local farmers markets. By 2014, they had a following, Julie had a calling and the Stadium District had a space available that accommodated a small factory and store front. This is a bean-to-bar designer chocolate shop filled with unique offerings made from Guittard or Callebaut chocolate plus their own chocolate concocted with exotic beans from Fiji, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Madagascar and Costa Rica. Imaginatively flavored truffles, bars and caramels sprinkled with sea salt are their foundation. Hot chocolate, cocoa nibs and brewing cocoa flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, cayenne and pasilla peppers are the accessories.

You can purchase from their retail store front or call in to buy a digital gift card. I recommend pressing your nose against the glass for the richest experience.

Location: 610 N 1st Street, Tacoma

Old Town Delights

Old Town Delights
Old Town Delights caramels wrapped in parchment will melt in your mouth. Photo credit: Kelly Garofalo

Who knew that an evening of wine tasting and truffle making could result in more than an alcohol buzz or a sugar high? Yet, Grant and Kelly Garofalo managed to turn a date night into a business. After taking a truffle making/wine tasting class, they fell in love with crafting chocolate confections. Old Town Delights was established in 2014 after numerous experiments that involved neighbors as guinea pigs. Initial offerings included pecan caramel clusters and hand-dipped truffles now offered in chai tea, vanilla, espresso, orange, Irish cream, spiced cider and whiskey flavors. The couple’s passion soon expanded to crafting handmade caramels using Grant’s grandmother’s recipe. All products are made in their University Place factory. You can purchase through their web site or local grocery stores listed on their web site.

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