A deeper scoop into our Nibs & Sea Salt bar

If you haven’t noticed, community and sustainability are high on Creo’s list of priorities. We are continually striving to build our community and support sustainable food practices. That is why we are excited to announce our collaboration with Portland-based Bitterman Salt Co. on our Nibs & Sea Salt bar!

Bitterman Salt Co.

Bitterman Salt Co., a Mark Bitterman business, that is on a quest to celebrate traditional salt farming while honoring the highest standards of environmental responsibility. Mark Bitterman, James Beard Awarded Author and owner of The Meadow, curates the world’s finest salt and has provided an Icelandic Flake Sea Salt to pair with our Nibs & Sea Salt bar.  Along with being refreshingly crunchy and fresh, the Icelandic Flake Sea Salt has a beautiful story to share!

From the fjords of Iceland

240 years ago, Iceland produced a mineral-fresh salt using only geothermal power. Sadly, the production only lasted for a few decades. In 2011, however, three food-loving grad students took on the challenge of bringing the tradition back to life, a highly technical and passion-driven task!

Now, their dream exists on the small Icelandic peninsula of Reykjanes, where these saltmakers produce a “superbly crunchy and mineral-fresh sea salt” using power generated by geothermal hotsprings. Salt crystals are evaporated using natural geyser heat, and the entire facility is geothermally powered. This is the Icelandic Flake Sea Salt Creo is proud to sprinkle on our chocolate bars.

Going bananas for Washu (and chocolate, of course)

We are honored to share the story of the newest Creo Chocolate Bar: The Washu Bar.

Rainforest Origins

In the lush El Choco Rainforest of northwestern Ecuador, a group of thirteen families are changing how they farm. Instead of cutting down rainforest trees for timber sales or crop expansion, they are adopting sustainable farm management practices with high quality cacao trees. Not only are these farmers improving their quality of life; they are providing a home for the critically endangered Ecuadorian Brown-Headed Spider Monkey that only lives in trees. Known by the locals as Washu, this native primate is part of the 25 most endangered primates in the world, and is the most threatened species of Ecuador.

Samuel and Anita

With the help of seasoned cacao farmers, Samuel and Anita, and the University of Sussex, these families have joined with “Proyecto Washu” to preserve the rainforest, their livelihood, and the Washu.

Do the names “Samuel and Anita” sound familiar? If you’ve ever visited our cafe and factory, you know their faces, as the farmers who grow the cacao we use to sweeten up our corner of Portland. We think it’s pretty cool that they are helping other farmers grow better cacao using sustainable practices. 🙂

Washu Flavor

El Choco Rainforest beans hold a tantalizing flavor, mild yet exquisitely complex. Prominent flavor notes include a floral front and fruity back. As you might be able to tell, the bar we’ve been privileged to make from these little beauties is quickly becoming a favorite, both to talk about and to eat!

For current information about the project and how you can get involved, visit the NGO Proyecto Washu website: www.proyectowashu.org. Let’s make a difference together! It’s chocolate for Change!

ICS and London’s Academy of Chocolate Awards (and a few more!)

It has been a whirlwind of events and competitions this season! The International Chocolate Salon 2017 honored us with four stars in the Best Chocolatier & Confectioners in America Awards, along with the title of “Superior Chocolatier.” They rated our Raspberry Dark bar 5 out of 5 stars, with bronze medals for both “Best Ingredient Combinations” and “Best Chocolate Bar.”

Washu

The Washu Project bar earned two silver medals and a bronze, for “Best Taste,” “Best Chocolate Bar,” and “Best Texture,” respectively. We really appreciated one judge’s feedback, “The Washu Project bar was absolutely amazing! My taste buds sung with joy as the flavor profiles unveiled itself.” We’re glad they enjoyed it as much as we do!

Washu Bar Awards

A few weeks ago, we were honored to receive a handful of awards from The Academy of Chocolate. This London-based organization was founded by five of Britain’s top chocolate professionals. It exists to help educate consumers about chocolate, from understanding ethical sourcing to training their palate.

Raspberry Dark

In the Flavoured Dark Chocolate Bars category, our Dark Raspberry bar made us proud with a silver medal. (Fun history fact: in its first release, this bar was originally named “Razzle in the Dark.” However, after customer feedback and many discussions about ambiguity, the berry-licious treat earned its current title.)

In the Bean to Bar Milk category, we brought home two silver medals. We know what you’re thinking: “Since when has Creo made milk chocolate?” After months of testing and tasting, we’ve developed two new flavors: the Browned Butter bar and the Dark Milk with Fleur de sel bar.

Minty Dark

Our Minty Dark bar brought home a bronze medal in the Flavoured Dark Chocolate Bars category. We couldn’t help smiling when we found out this labor-of-love bar caught the attention of The Academy. It also won a Good Food Award this year, and a bronze medal in the Americas region of the International Chocolate Awards… There is a reason that this is one of our most popular bars made with our refreshing Northwest mint!

Nibs & Sea Salt

The salty-crunchy Nibs & Sea Salt bar joined our Minty Dark in the bronze-winning category.
Nibs & Sea Salt Bar Awards

Spicy Dark

Not to be left out of the party, the Spicy Dark bar also joined the Creo Chocolate bronze-winner club! (Speaking of parties, the flavor mix in this bar is literally a “party in your mouth.” If you’ve tried it, you know what we mean. It’s not a bar to burn taste buds. Rather, it is a bar meant to hit every part of your mouth with a different flavor note…Tim likes to call it “a symphony in your mouth!”)Spicy Dark Bar Awards

Purely Dark

In the Bean to Bar (under 80%) category, our classic Purely Dark bar also earned a bronze. This treat is the base for all of our 73% bars. (Fun fact: come in for a Make-a-Bar tour, and design your own flavor creation on top of this bar!)Purely Dark Bar Awards

Sipping Chocolates

Our Midnight Truffle Sipping Chocolate earned a bronze in the Plain Hot Chocolate category, while our Mayan Spice Sipping Chocolate earned the same in the Flavoured Hot Chocolate category.Midnight Truffle Sipping Chocolate AwardsWe greatly appreciate the consideration and recognition of The Academy of Chocolate, The International Chocolate Awards, International Chocolate Salon and the Good Food Awards. As always, thank you for your support. Cheers to the future of fine chocolate!

Mayan Spice Sipping Chocolate Awards

Artisan Chocolate Meets Artisan Coffee

Our coffee roaster, Michael is passionate about his artisan coffee the way we are passionate about artisan chocolate! Recently, we took an opportunity to watch him roast a batch of coffee. We greatly enjoyed the treat of seeing the craft behind the flavors firsthand.

We invite you to check out our peek into the world of artisan coffee!

2017 International Chocolate Salon Awards

Best Chocolatiers & Confections in America Awards

Drumroll…

We are honored to announce our selection as one of the International Chocolate Salon’s 2017 Best Chocolatiers and Confectioners in America. It is a chocolate award we can’t help getting excited about.

What is the International Chocolate Salon?

Founded in 2007 by TasteTV and TCB Cafe Publishing and Media, the International Chocolate Salon (ICS) is all about chocolate. Their nationwide artisan and premium chocolate events celebrate deliciousness across the country. (Be sure to check their website for any upcoming events in your area!) Demos, presentations, tasting, and juried chocolate awards are all part of each event.

Some Healthy Competition for Chocolate

In addition to events, the International Chocolate Salon holds annual contests for the best-of-the-best in chocolate and related confections. Awards categories include Chocolate, Caramel, Toffee, White Chocolate, Vegan Chocolate and Hot Chocolate & Drinking Chocolate, among others. (Yum!)

Regional and national panels of food and and media experts judge each category. Items are ranked based on flavor, texture, ingredients and a host of other qualities. Last year, we were honored with awards for our Minty Dark, Mayan Spice, and Midnight Truffle Sipping Chocolates.

Creo Chocolate Best Hot Cocoa chocolate awards

It’s been an exciting couple of years. However, that doesn’t mean it’s time to slow down! We look forward to continuing to refine and expand our contribution to the world of artisan chocolate. To all of our chocolate family across the world, thank you for your support!

What are nibs?

What are cacao nibs? It is a question we hear quite often! The simple answer is this: nibs are pure chocolate before it becomes chocolate. However, it’s not quite that simple. These delicious tidbits have an adventure behind them!

Our nibs begin their life inside cacao pods in Ecuador:

pre-nibs cacao pod on tree

Each pod is filled with rows of fruit-covered seeds.

fresh cut cacao pod

When the seeds are dried, the fruit oxidizes, turning from white to brown and hardens around the shells, helping develop the flavor of (guess what?!) the center of the seed, called the nib.

purple fermented beans

Here, our farmer, Samuel, is holding some partially-fermented seeds (also known as beans). At this stage, the shells are a pale brown, while the nib is a swirl of purple and darker brown. Earlier, these nibs were a vibrant purple. Despite the glamorous looks, we wouldn’t recommend tasting them when they’re this pretty color… It is not pleasant. Trust us. Stick to feasting with your eyes.

beans drying in the sun

dried beans cut open

After a closely-monitored period of fermentation and drying, the nibs fade to a nice chocolatey-brown. (see second picture above) The shells and nibs are now similar in color. Still in their thin shells, the nutty treasures are shipped to our shop in Portland.

cacao beans

In our chocolate factory, we carefully roast these beans (seeds), developing their chocolate flavor. You can always tell when the beans are roasting. The smell is divine chocolateyness!

After roasting, we crack them into pieces. (If you haven’t seen this happening in our shop, be sure to ask about it next time you visit.) Next, our winnower separates pieces of thin shell from pieces of nibs.

nibs into winnowing machine
Now the nibs are delicious nutty pieces, ready to eat! From here, they will either be ground down to make chocolate bars, used for brownie and cookie toppings, pressed to create cocoa powder and cocoa butter, or packaged for others to use. We also love to use them in smoothies, granola, ice cream, cereal, salads, and baked goods. Yummy!

Come make chocolate with us!

What’s better than eating chocolate? Making and eating chocolate! We invite you to join us for a hands-on delicious experience that just might forever change the way you see chocolate. It’s the Make-a-bar tour at our factory and café in NE Portland!

As we hope to inspire you with the story of chocolate, we are inspired by your creativity. This post is not complete without a shout out to our make-a-bar tour graduates! Thank you for bringing your creativity to Creo Chocolate, inspiring us, making us laugh, and becoming part of the great big Chocolate Story. We have had quite the potpourri of creative bar artists! We’d like to take a minute to share a few of our favorites:

 

How can you not smile back at this sweet coconut guy? Just look at that. He’s already blushing.

A few people “go for it all,” but this bar really impressed us… 6 tidy rows of tasty flavors! It held the record for most-segments-in-a-single-bar, until several months later, when this eccentric treat came along…

A cheerful gal came through our tour, heard about the previously mentioned bar, and made it her goal to beat the record. And here you have it! A chocolatemaker-verified 9-segment bar.

 

Although we like to periodically change up our flavor options, this next bar is definitely a step away from our “traditional” flavor choices! The artist behind this bar truly loved lavender. The chocolate is infused with lavender oil and sprinkled with dried lavender… without tasting it, we could tell by the smell that the flavor of this bar would definitely linger for a bit!

Finally, we managed to snap a picture of this elegant bar just as it entered its package. A colorful dusting of spices accented a row of dried fruits. We love the style!

 

Some of our artists’ most creative flavor names include:

BERRY BERRY HOT!! (By John)

Cacao ~ If you dare! (By Glenda)

Cinnamon Nightmare (By Jan)

Jazzy Razzy (By Madison)

Too Good To Live (By Ross)

Spicy Miss (By Loretta)

SUNSHINE (By Dani)

Warren’s Mess (By Warren)

Wombo Combo (By Cody)
 
What will your flavor look and taste like? Sign up for your time slot at: http://creochocolate.com/classes/. We look forward to meeting you in the chocolate adventure!

Bringing home a Good Food Award in 2017!

Since 2012, Oregon has made a name for itself in the Good Food Awards, with numerous winners across all fourteen GFA food categories. Potential awardees are nominated through blind tasting followed by an extensive vetting process. With our foodie scene in Portland, it is certainly no surprise to see many familiar faces at the awards ceremony!

This year, we are honored to represent Oregon’s chocolate, bringing home the medal for our 73% Minty Dark bar. We are particularly excited about this bar, not only because we love the flavor, but because our mint is local, grown on a farm in Yakima, Washington. If you haven’t tried our Minty Dark bar, we would humbly suggest you at least give it a taste. We’re pretty confident you won’t be disappointed!

Jeremy, our truffle maker at Batch PDX, took home confection awards for both his Candy Cap Mushroom Truffle and Ghost Pepper Truffle. Yes, we know that these flavors might sound a little scary. And yes, they are unique… but only in the most delicious way. Many a skeptic has become a raving fan after building the courage to taste these little bites of heaven. We encourage you to try them for yourself next time you visit our cafe.

Thank you, friends, family and fellow foodies for being a part of this exciting journey!

The Creo Chocolate Factory is turning 2!

January 28, 2015

We can hardly believe it… Today marks two years since we opened the doors of our factory and café on NE Broadway Street in Portland!

We started with a few products that we had poured our heart and soul into creating, excited and hopeful for what our shop might grow into. We knew the road ahead would be long and challenging, but we also knew we had come a long ways already. Only a few years before, we had been raspberry farmers experimenting with cacao beans in our kitchen, sharing our creations with neighbors and friends. The creativity developed into drink recipes, baked goods and chocolate bar development. With that farmer’s dirt in our blood, we sought out cacao farmers to source our beans from.

Within a few years, our family’s passion for chocolate had grown into something far more than a hobby…

Janet and Kevin in Ecuador learning about cacao first-hand

Chocolate factory and café construction in 2014

After many months of planning, testing and building, we found ourselves standing at the threshold of a new life adventure in chocolate!

Looking back over two years, we have so much to be thankful for. Our humble home-made test chocolate bars have grown into a repertoire of award-winning handcrafted chocolate goodness. Our excursions into discovering chocolate have become an avenue to educate our community through tours and classes. However, none of what we have today would be possible without the help of family, friends, and our community. Truly, we have been blessed.

This week (January 28 – Feb 4) we invite you to celebrate with us in the shop. Come in and wish us “Happy Birthday!” and we will share with you a complimentary 2nd Anniversary truffle. We look forward to seeing you!

Construction Done!

Well, it took a little longer than we had originally planned…..ok, a lot longer, but we have finally cleaned up the dust, put away the tools, and moved into our factory and tasting room at 122 NE Broadway, Portland.

Those of you walking or driving by Broadway this week may have gotten a sneak peak into our space.  We finally took down the window paper and if you popped your head in, you may have noticed the construction is done!

We still have a few odds and ends to do (like hang some curtains) but in the meantime we are going to make this neighborhood start smelling like chocolate and get busy making deliciousness in our new space.

Our “coming out party” will be at our booth at the Portland Chocolate Fest, January 24 & 25th.

We would love to see you, so please stop by and say hi.

Then we will open the doors to our factory and tasting room on Thursday, January 29th, 11am.