With two downtown locations (414 SW 13th Ave and 712 SW Salmon St, tucked in a corner of the Heathman), Cacao Drink Chocolate is a sea foam green and milky brown fantasyland for choco-files. Just plain pretty to look at, these stores offer an extensive range of artistically-arranged premium solid chocolate bars from around the world, select handmade delectables, and their own wildly-popular drinking and hot chocolates. Co-owners Jesse Manis and Aubrey Lindley set the thermostat at 67 degrees to preserve the goods, and yet the shops always manage to feel warm and welcoming.
As a choco-fiend myself, the way that Lindley answers the following cacao questions is enough to heat my blood.
1) What are some chocolate trends you foresee for 2011?
We are continuing to see a lot of interest in bean-to-bar manufacturers, including people experimenting at home with raw or roasted cacao beans and using home devices such as an oven, a Champion juicer, and a rock tumbler. It’s similar to roasting your own coffee beans, but with a ton more work. Also, two years ago no chocolate maker was willing to add anything to their chocolate. But now they realize that adding something like salt, caramel, spice, bacon, or peanut butter can actually enhance their chocolate’s flavors and broaden their potential audience. Yet another continuing trend is nutraceutical-marketed chocolate—categories like raw or products with alternative sweeteners or added nutritional supplements.
2) If someone was only in town for a day, what three things must they order from you?
Our store is founded on the principle that we have something for most people, but very little is for everyone. It would depend on where the customer is from and what they’re interested in. If someone wanted to learn about chocolate, for example, then I would suggest a mini tasting kit from Pralus, New Taste of Chocolate by Maricel Presilla, and a Claudio Corallo Soft bar. Or if they simply wanted some delicious things, then maybe Béquet Celtic Sea Salt Caramel, Pralus Barre Infernalle, and Cacao Spicy Drinking Chocolate.
3) You opened for business in 2006—what’s next for Cacao?
Enhancing the offerings in the café, along with finally producing packaged drinking chocolate mixes—these will be available before the end of this year. We will also continue to do more public events, hosting chocolate makers and chocolatiers for tastings and presentations.
4) What other Portland chocolatiers, candy stores, or even restaurants help inspire you and keep you creative?
We work with many talented, local chocolatiers who inspire us in their own way, such as Elizabeth Montes at Sahagun, David Briggs at Xocolatl de David, Sebastian Cisneros at Cocanú, and John Depaula at Depaula Confections. We’re also inspired by Evoe, Cheese Bar, Olympic Provisions, Kir, Por Qué No, Biwa, Nong’s Khao Man Gai, little t american baker, and the list goes on and on and on.
5) In your expert opinion, what is the most perfect chocolate experience on earth?
For me, chocolate is like life—I can’t imagine one best experience. I want continued access to an ever-evolving selection of the best so that I can have that amazing “wow” moment again and again. For example, last weekend Art Pollard from Amano handed me a piece of chocolate that he is working on that was a brilliant explosion of tart, concentrated red fruit with a little bit of walnut or leather or tobacco underneath. I had been drinking gin and tonics earlier so my palate was not what it might have been…