: Robbie McClaran

Craft Chocolatiers of Portland

Jen Stevenson, Guest Author
November 29, 2016 (Updated March 17, 2020)

Editor’s note: While businesses are temporarily closed, you can read about their inspired and delicious innovations here. Also consider visiting their online shops — a great way to show your support by stocking up on a few of these exquisite artisan bars. After all, chocolate is good for the soul, and your immunity. When things clear up, visit the local retail shops and meet the makers in person. 

Well-versed in the virtues of craft beer, spirits, cheese, charcuterie and, of course, coffee, Rose City residents also enjoy the fruits of the city’s other bean scene: craft chocolate. Wielding homemade winnowers and repurposed grain mills, stringently sourced single-origin cacao beans and a pioneering spirit, bean-to-bar chocolatiers have put Portland at the forefront of the country’s cacao circuit.

Cocanú

The famously well-curated Cacao chocolate shop in downtown Portland is filled with chocolatier Sebastian Cisneros’ Cocanú collection: a neat row of perfectly square 25-gram chocolate tiles labeled with flavor profiles like “dark chocolate, baked milk, bee pollen” and “dark chocolate, hazelnuts, fernet,” and stamped with a fleur de lis of sealing wax, a la 19th century love letters.

Ecuador-born Cisneros is no stranger to cacao. While interning at a nearby web design firm, he’d frequent the shop on his way to work. One day it hit him: his true passion lay with cacao and not coding, and he landed a job at the chocolate shop. For five years, he worked with the best bars in the world by day, while developing his own at night.

Sourcing beans from his native country, as well as Bolivia and Venezuela, Cisneros crafts nine signature bars, from the single-origin Cloudforest to playful inclusions like the cacao nib and Pop Rocks-studded Moonwalk. Order online: Cocanú.

(Photo courtesy of Cocanú)
 

Creo Chocolate

After farming raspberries in Washington for nearly two decades, Tim and Janet Straub were ready for a change. Deciding to take their chocolate-making hobby to the next level, they opened a mini chocolate factory and retail shop in the midst of Portland’s Lloyd District. At Creo Chocolate you’ll find the entire family at work: Tim filling chocolate molds, Janet leading a tour and son Kevin French-pressing a cup of their signature brewed cacao.

The Straubs’ chocolate bars are made with rare heirloom cacao beans, which they source directly from a single farm in Ecuador. They handcraft each with a cast of creatively jury-rigged equipment, which includes a “Crankandstein” beer grain mill powered by a cordless screwdriver and a Willy Wonka-esque self-designed winnower. Order online: Creo Chocolate.

(Photo courtesy of Creo Chocolate)
 

Pitch Dark Chocolate

Founder Brian Flick’s obsession with the food of the gods goes back to his freshman year in high school, when the 14-year-old budding entrepreneur started his first confections company, making truffles for weddings and corporate events. In the years since, Pitch Dark Chocolate has become one of the most recognizable names in the city’s white-hot food scene.

Today, Flick’s line of bars  is made with beans sourced from Nicaragua, Ecuador, Madagascar and Fiji, where Flick did his grad-school field work, helping to rehabilitate the Fijian cacao industry. Flick’s bars, truffles and drinking chocolate can be found at his Rose City Park retail space — try the potent 99% Nicalizo, and the Pinot Noir Salt and Chocolate bar, made with Portland-based Jacobsen Salt Co.’s Oregon Coast-harvested sea salt infused with Willamette Valley pinot noir. Order online: Creo Chocolate.

(Photo by Robbie McClaran)
 
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Ranger Chocolate Company

After a year of experimenting with mini melangers and homemade winnowers in their makeshift laundry room headquarters, Ranger Chocolate Company chocolatiers Patrick and Rhonda Zender, George Domurot and David Beanland were ready for larger, lint-free digs, so they joined forces with Trailhead Coffee Roasters’ Charlie Wicker to open the city’s first combination coffee roastery and chocolate factory, fronted by bustling Cup & Bar cafe and tasting room.

Using organic beans from Peru, Brazil and Haiti, the team crafts eight distinctive bars in their airy inner Southeast production space, from the earthy 70% San Martín and potent 100% Tumbes, to the rotating “Wildcard” bar. Order online: Ranger Chocolate Company.

(Photo by NashCO)

Woodblock Chocolate

The first on Portland’s bean-to-bar block, husband and wife chocolate-making team Charley and Jessica Wheelock opened their “manufactory” in 2010. In a quiet residential neighborhood, they craft Woodblock Chocolate bars with a hodgepodge of cleverly repurposed machinery that includes a refurbished turn-of-the-century peanut roaster.

On a mission to produce impeccably sourced, “face-meltingly delicious” chocolate, the duo puts out a line of petite, beautifully branded bars found all over Portland and in boutiques and markets from Sweden to Japan. Order online: Woodblock Chocolate.

(Photo by Robbie McClaran)

Cacao Chocolate Shop

Jesse Manis and Aubrey Lindley’s sleek and scholarly Cacao chocolate shop, in Portland’s hip West End neighborhood, is filled with hometown heroes such as Cocanú and Woodblock mingling with national and international chocolate luminaries from Patric to Pralus, and confections by other renowned local chocolatiers Xocolatl de DavídAlma Chocolate and Batch PDX.

Find everything you need for supreme indulgence, including a Cacao Master Chef Baking and Eating Chocolate Set, Premium Drinking Chocolate and 100% Pure Dark Unsweetened Hot Chocolate for the most refined chocolate palates in your family. Order online: Cacao

(Photo by Susan Seubert)