The Portland culinary scene is getting noticed all over the world. In addition to our vigorously thriving restaurant and food cart industries, we are also well known for the quality and variety of our beer and locally roasted coffee. And our award-winning Willamette Valley pinot noirs get lots of media attention, while consistently winning top awards.
Portland is the nations top producer of fine chocolate
But did you know that Portland is also the country’s leading producer of fine chocolate? At first glance, this may not seem to make sense. Portland’s claims to fame is the strength of our farm-to-table philosophy. And cacao, the plant that produces cocoa beans, certainly doesn’t grow locally—it needs the warmth and sun that only occur naturally within 20 degrees north and south of the Equator.
Single origin chocolate
It is certainly our city’s emphasis on starting with quality ingredients that has helped lead to Portland’s leading role in the relatively new industry of “flavor-bean” cacao. This is also known variously as “flavor-grade,” “single-origin,” or “estate-grown” cacao. Ninety percent of all the cacao grown and consumed around the world today is what is known as “commodity” or “bulk” cacao. Bred to be hardy and highly productive, commodity cacao’s flavor notes tend toward the bitter, sour, and acrid. This means that chocolate makers need to add a relatively large percentage of other ingredients to make it taste good.
Flavor Grade Chocolate Beans
Flavor-bean cacao comprises only about the top 10% of all cacao. It can be more difficult to cultivate, but its high quality allows producers to add a smaller percentage of other ingredients. Chocolate makers who use flavor-grade beans can also access the incredibly wide variety of flavor notes that naturally occur in cacao. Food scientists tell us that cacao can have about three times the flavor notes found in red wine!
Bean to Bar Chocolate Makers
Like Portland’s top chefs, our craft chocolate makers (known as bean-to-bar chocolate makers) start with only top-quality ingredients like flavor-bean cacao. By now, it may be less surprising to learn that Portland has more bean-to-bar chocolate makers than any other city in the U.S. Some of these chocolate makers even have relationships with the growers and plantation owners, which allows them to even more closely steward the chocolate production from beginning to end.
Eat Adventures Food Tours recommends these fine Portland chocolate makers:
Cloudforest. Owner Sebastian Cisneros focuses on flavor-bean varietals grown in his home country of Ecuador;
Creo Chocolate. A family-run shop who specializes in tours where visitors design and create their own bar.
Ranger Chocolate. Currently focused on three unique and surprisingly different single-origin Peruvian beans.
Woodblock Chocolate Manufactory. Another family company that collaborates with local businesses Stumptown Coffee, and Salt and Straw ice cream.
Missionary Chocolates The Mission of the company has always been to build an inpatient, integrative healing center in Portland, funded by chocolate.
And then there are chocolatiers, defined as those who make confections out of already-made chocolate.
Among Portland’s host of fine chocolatiers to visit are:
Alma Handmade Chocolates,
Bees and Beans,
Chocolate Makers Studio
Xocolatl de David