We Love Woodblock Chocolate
Charley and Jessica from Woodblock Chocolate are amazing. Not just because they are making some of the most delicious and inspiring artisan chocolate in Portland recently. Not just because they are genuine, warm and inviting people who aren’t afraid to have a conversation about life in general, life as business owners and life as parents. And not just because they let us sample more chocolate than we could have possibly dreamed. They are amazing because they are living a dream. They started their business out of their own home, like many small businesses do, and earlier this year moved into a beautiful work space where they are able to experiment with their craft, hone their abilities, and continue to build on the simple concepts of adding a few ingredients together to make pure magic.
We were fortunate enough to visit the Woodblock Chocolate work space on two occasions and experience it in two different ways. The first time, Charley was there alone and was able to chat with us about the process of how the chocolate is made. It starts with cacao beans that he has shipped from Trinidad, Madagascar, Venezuela, and Ecuador. All of the different origins produce a slightly different type of cacao bean which Charley has selected specifically for his chocolate. He told us of the different times he has traveled to meet the growers of this product and has ventured deep into the jungle just to find out exactly where his beans are coming from and how they are being farmed and processed. It’s obvious Charley cares a lot about where his product comes from by how he eloquently illustrates his story and speaks about the conditions of not only the product he is buying but the working and living conditions of those who farm it.
Once the beans arrive in massive bags at his shop, he gets the job of roasting, cracking the shells, and separating the actual bean from the shell in his self made system. It’s a time consuming process that has a pay out that is well worth the hard work. Taking photos of the bags of beans, peeking around the corners of the shop with all if its charm, uniquities, and beautiful window panes was an exciting first experience inside Woodblock.
On our second visit we were introduced to the full Woodblock Chocolate crew who is made up of Charley, Jessica, their two darling children, and a few of their friends who’ve come in to help them with packaging. On this occasion we were able to see the end process of how the chocolate becomes chocolate. Once the beans are ready, they are put into massive cylindrical machines with stone wheels inside that grind down the bean into a fine pastey like liquid. The cacao gets sugar added to it at varying amounts depending how rich the percentage of cacao to sugar ratio there is. It’s amazing to see the machines at work, grinding, and swirling around with the most amazing aroma of cacao in the air. The whole work shop smells of it actually. It made every single hair on my neck stand up and made my imagination go wild with thoughts of endless chocolate possibilities. I was in Charley’s Chocolate Factory… dream come true.
The next steps show the true differences in origins of the beans. When the cylinders have been emptied of the liquid cacao goodness, it can bee seen which pans hold beans from Trinidad, Madagascar and Venezuela all by the depth of color. I had a very hard time not dipping my whole hand inside to try each one like Winnie the Pooh’s mitts in a honey-pot. The process from that point on becomes a bit more complicated when the product is tempered. No other ingredients are added to the majority of Woodblock Chocolate’s product, aside from maybe a little bit of salt on top in the end. The tempered chocolate gets poured into molds to make the delightful bars that they package up and send out all over Portland and beyond.
The process of making chocolate is a truly rewarding and intriguing experience, one which Jessica is happy to be a part of. I spoke with her about the realities of being part of a small business, having kids, and living in Portland. She is humble, honest and obviously happy that things have gone so well for them. Neither Jessica or Charley are originally from Portland but they have both used their education and experience (Charley’s being in design and Jessica’s in the editorial world having once worked for Martha Stewart Living) to combine their talents to create a unique brand and product that is, quite frankly, absolutely delicious. It was more than just a pleasure to meet Jessica and Charley and take a peek inside their business, they are possibly my most favorite of people I have talked with since beginning Endlessly Enraptured and not just because they make one of my favorite things in the world. It is because they are genuine, enthusiastic, and altogether wonderful people and we are so very happy to support their business.
We have a very special event planned in partnership with Woodblock Chocolate following this post in the next few days, so make sure to check back and you may get some Woodblock chocolate of your own…