Coffee, cookie, and canale at Cloudforest 

Image: Karen Brooks

It was the perfect morning destination, filled with light, happiness, and exquisite chocolate that made its way into nearly everything, savory granola to game-changing hot chocolate. It wasn’t enough.

In a city that prides itself on handcrafted goods, Cloudforest was the ultimate: the house chocolate, inspired by owner Sebastian Cisneros’ Ecuadorian upbringing, was made literally steps away from the bar. So was the beautiful, double-folded vanilla, rendered from fresh Ecuadorian pods… and the jams piled on toast with homemade cashew cheese. It wasn’t enough. 

To enter Cloudforest was to immerse yourself in an experience—an intimacy, a generosity, a beauty—with ever-changing floral designs, super-personal service, and bowls of chocolate to sample. Even the coffee drinks were perfect.

And still, it wasn’t enough.

On Sunday, Cloudforest owner Sebastian Cisneros posted a sign on the door, a goodbye note and a love letter to customers. Monday, Aug. 5, will be the last day of service at 1411 SE Stark St

“It is with a mix of feelings that we make this announcement, and we cannot express enough gratitude to all of you - from our early rising suppliers to our most enthusiastic customers - for believing in the place we set out to create and helping bring it to life.”

The note went on to thank staff members “who not only helped us materialize and share what we believed in, but allowed us to understand the beauty of what can be accomplished with collective professionalism and kindness.” 

Cloudforest owner Sebastian Cisneros 

Image: Karen Brooks

What went wrong? When it opened in March 2018, the 2,500-square-foot shop was a coming out party for Cisneros, a rising chocolate star. “Sebastian is Portland’s most talented chocolate maker—just incredibly nuanced,” observed Aubrey Lindley, co-owner of downtown chocolate bar shrine Cacao. But his desire to do all things, perfectly—baking to chocolate experiments to a recent brainstorm to launch Ecuadorian-style ice creams—pulled him in too many managerial and creative directions, without the deep pockets, resources, or staffing to back the dreams. A lack of foot traffic didn’t help.

But take note: the Cloudforest brand and chocolate will continue on. Check online or at local chocolate shops Cacao and the Meadow. The plan is to relocate production and possibly open smaller projects in the future. 

According to Cisneros, a Seattle-based company will operate the Stark Street café space under a new name with new owners.

“I learned a lot,” says Cisneros. “It was really cool to create a space with different eyes. It was not grown up and not a playground, but somewhere between for adults and kids. We made really yummy things. It was fun to share that.”

As the note farewell note says: “We move forward on our new path with great enthusiasm and renewed energy so that we can keep building and sharing this beautiful chocolate culture that all of you have helped shape.”

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