In 2011, the Portland bean-to-bar chocolate movement got serious with Woodblock Chocolate, an aspiring family venture run out of the home of chocolate fanatics Charley and Jessica Wheelock. When PoMo first tracked down the couple, they were churning out two kilos of chocolate every 72 hours with the help of a vintage roaster, transforming raw beans into rustic bars that, like wine, tasted of “place.” “We are working on getting a brick-and-mortar space that will be very fun,” Charley told us then. “We hope to create a small 'manufactory' to showcase the chocolate making process to the public…but I don’t want to jinx anything.”
Seven years later, on June 5 (Portland permit gods willing), Woodblock Chocolate will open a 1,500-square-foot chocolate café-cum-roastery and manufactory at 1715 NE 17th Ave. It’ll come complete with a counter and stools that offer a bird's eye view into the couple’s now-successful cacao roasting and chocolate bar company. As Eat Beat has learned in an exclusive interview, the café will showcase the couple's latest creations: drinking chocolate, coffee drinks (made with Stumptown beans), and a new line of bon-bons exclusive to the shop. Among your future obsessions? The Italian-inspired Bicerin, which beautifully layers drinking chocolate, espresso, and soft whipped cream in a clear glass.
There are plans for a case full of locally sourced pastries, though the kitchen will also produce its own brownies and chocolate chip cookies with one giant chocolate chip protruding from the center. Though it might not be ready at launch time, the Wheelocks will also toss their hat in the soft-serve game, with a house flavor and chocolate-friendly toppings, cocoa nibs to roasted hazelnuts.
The new space will have an additional seven tables, and the Wheelocks hope to eventually extend to evening hours as well as host collaborative dinners, and perhaps, flamenco dancing (another passion and another story).
Woodblock Chocolate Manufactory is actually the second Portland bean-to-bar chocolate maker to open a café/espresso bar in the last two months. Cloudforest, at 411 SE Stark St., is a smaller operation, but with its own strong collection of bars, drinking chocolates, excellent coffee drinks, a few choice pastries, and a window that peeks into the bean-to-bar process. Both outposts are an exciting development in a city where a once-exciting chocolate-making scene has felt stalled in recent years.
The Wheelocks see the café as a passion project and as an R&D lab. But mostly, they seem excited to watch people eat their chocolate … which is not an option for people whose bars are sold elsewhere. A chocolate tasting station will be placed at the edge of the counter, where customers first walk in. The goal, says Charley, is “to get chocolate in their mouths as soon as possible.” Noble.