Drinking chocolate at Alma

Image: Karen Brooks

Chocolate buddhas wrapped in gold leaf? Peanut butter cups hiding chiles, lime, and ginger?! When Alma Chocolate opened in 2006, before bean-to-bar shops were the norm in every quadrant, it was a true cacao pioneer, bursting with creativity and original ideas. Sarah Hart, Alma’s spiritual soul, and later on, talented baker Ruth Fox, grew Alma into a wild and wonderful catalogue of bon bons, molded chocolate art, and pastries over the years. A few all-time favorites: a stellar drinking chocolate, coffee, and tea menu, and the addictive, baroque, Sea Salt Hazelnut Crunch Bar, sold around town. 

Now, Eat Beat has learned that Alma Chocolate (including its cute Northeast Portland café) has been sold to Portland-born operation Moonstruck Chocolate.

Things have been amiss at the house of chocolate since Alma opened a second, larger shop in 2015 inside an old creamery that also houses Renata at 626 SE Main St; Hart stepped away from day-to-day operations and brought on private investors, and Fox left Alma entirely. Visiting earlier this year, we found that Alma’s creative drink menu had soured, while the baked goods—peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies to chocolate coconut macaroons—paled in comparison. Shortly before the news of its Moonstruck acquisition, Alma made the announcement that it was closing its Main Street location after three years of “stressing at the seams.”

Moonstruck’s plans are vague for now, but they maintain that Alma’s original NE 28th Avenue Café will remain open, while chocolate production will move to Moonstruck’s St. John’s factory as it scales the Alma brand into larger markets.

As sellouts go, Portland could certainly do worse than a hometown-grown chocolatier like Moonstruck, which has been building its mostly West Coast-focused brand for a quarter-century. But make no mistake: Alma is not Alma without Sarah Hart. Raise a glass of drinking chocolate to the cacao queen: you will be missed.

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