When you eat a lot of chocolate, every trip seems to become a chocolate field trip. And while the same could be said of any hobby or passion, it's been my good fortune to meet others who have turned their passion for chocolate into a business across the globe.
During a recent trip to Portland, Oregon, I was able to stop at at several (although not all) chocolate hot spots in this city of roses. The Portland area has a fairly high chocolate IQ, with lots of chocolate makers and chocolatiers.
Coming from further south, one of the first things about Portland I noticed was how green everything was. The trees, grass and plants were shades of radiant jade and emerald. And when the sun showed through to dazzle on occasion, it was easy to believe how everyone might want to live in the Pacific Northwest, in Portland or Seattle, or other cities.
Creo Chocolate, a family-founded and run bean-to-bar chocolate business, was my first stop. The founders (Tim and Janet Straub) experimented with roasting beans and making chocolate from scratch for several years, before selling their own family farm (where they'd grown raspberries for 16 years), and getting into the business of making craft chocolate.
The company name "creo" means "I believe" in Spanish, and "I create" in Latin. Co-founder, Janet Straub, says she felt she made a "heart connection" when they met with other family farmers in Ecuador and other cacao-growing countries. They felt they could make a difference when they used the farmers' cacao to make into great chocolate, and to bring to others in the cities to enjoy.
Creo Chocolate (located in the Lloyd District, east of the Willamette River) is a factory and cafe, a place where tours are given and chocolate is sold.
The May Saturday when I stopped by, the shop was full of browsers and buyers, but Kevin Straub (described on the Creo website as the family's "chocolate maker and maintenance geek") made time to speak with me about their bars and confections (that were made by someone else).
I sampled a Yuzu Gimlet from the glass display case. The fresh gin and yuzu (citrus-like) fruit flavors, infused into a chocolate truffle format, tasted vibrant and clear and were well balanced.
Today I also tried two other Creo filled chocolates: a mystery sample (white chocolate with a spicy kick) that Kevin provided; and a maple cream-filled dark square. The maple caramel filling was light, almost silky and creamy.
I'm saving the Creo (bean-to-bar) chocolate(s) and cacao nibs for upcoming theme weeks.