Next time you purchase a store-bought chocolate bar, ask yourself: Just where do the cocoa beans in your confection come from? How are they processed? And how do both of these dimensions affect the flavor of your beloved bar?
As Brian Flick, lifelong chocolatier and owner of one of Portland’s newest chocolate shops, Pitch Dark Chocolate, explained to us, chocolate beans are similar to coffee. Their flavor profiles are distinct and diverse. The bean of one plant might have a pronounced fruity flavor while the bean of another plant, found in a different locale, might have an intensely smoky flavor. When those beans are all thrown into the same pot, their unique flavor profiles get lost in the mix. This is the case with most major chocolate bars available for purchase, in which the cocoa is a mash up of beans from all over the world.
Pitch Dark Chocolate does it a bit differently, in two distinct ways. First, their cocoa beans are single farm sourced. In other words, not only do they come from a specific village, but, more often than not, they come from just one single farm, allowing Flick to isolate the unique flavor of cocoa beans found on that farm.
Flick's product is also differentiated by his unique production process. Whereas many chocolate producers typically use a 4-step process during the chocolate-making process, Flick uses innovative machinery to build in two distinct steps (roll refining and dedicated conching). All chocolate makers refine and conch their chocolate, but most do it in one single machine called a stone grinder. Flick, on the other hand, pre-refines his chocolate in a stone grinder, then refines again in a separate roll refiner, and finally conches in a dedicated conching machine. By using these two separate pieces of equipment, he is able to have more control over partical size distribution, viscosity, and flavor, giving Pitch Dark Chocolate its silky, smooth texture while maximizing flavor from the single farm-sourced beans.
We had a chance to sample some of Pitch Dark’s bars and were hooked by their unique flavor profiles and smooth sense of balance. One Ecuadorian chocolate bar ($6) possessed a laser-focused fruitiness that lingered on the tongue, while another bar with beans hailing from Madagascar ($6) combined subtle earthiness with a hint of mild spice. But if you go in for your chocolate fix, don’t stop at the bars. The shop also offers bite-sized truffles and other confections that are equally robust and silky, all just begging to be scooped up for your late night chocolate cravings.
Pitch Dark Chocolate
5353 NE Sandy Blvd
Monday-Sunday: 11 am to 6 pm