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.

Here a penny, there a penny!

We have a very fun secret in our factory.

If you happen to use our restroom you will discover the floor is covered with beautiful copper pennies.  The story is….. for years, Janet has been picking up pennies off the ground whenever she would find one and saving them. She said each one reminded her that “In God We Trust.”

CreoChocolate011915-_MG_5219Fast forward, as we were contemplating how to finish our floor we remembered a picture of a penny floor that looked really nice. A lot of copper is being used in the factory already and it just seemed a good fit. We thought that using Janet’s pennies would be a constant reminder that at the foundational, ground floor of Creo Chocolate, we trust in God. “One cent” also reminds us that we are “sent” to make a difference in whatever part of the world we touch (more of the Creo story!).

Since Janet didn’t have quite enough pennies saved up to cover the whole area, we invited our family and friends to contribute their pennies to the floor, joining us in the story.  We were so encouraged by the outpouring of love and support as pennies started coming from all over the Metro area. Our daughter, Lydia, organized the pennies and with some help from a sister, laid them all down real pretty.

I’m sure you are wondering just how many pennies are on that floor. A lot! Actually, about 20,000.

Some of them are pretty old and then there are Indian head, wheat backs, steel, shiny new ones and some that look like they have been around the world a few times or used in a lot of gum ball machines!  Ask one of our team what the oldest penny is.

Now that you know the story behind our little secret, we hope that our floor inspires you also. Be sure and take a peek if you need to take a leak!  (Did I really write that? 😉  )

 

“What’s so different about your chocolate?”

Really good question and I have a really good answer.  For one, we are not just making chocolate, as wonderful as it is, we are creating an experience.

When we first began experimenting with making chocolate, three of our family members took a trip across the United States to visit chocolate makers and hoped to actually watch someone making chocolate. Surprisingly, most makers crafted their chocolate without an audience. Our family came home a bit disappointed but resolved to not let that be the case where we live.

Handcrafted chocolate is a fascinating story and an experience that we thought our community in Portland/Vancouver would benefit from and enjoy learning about. So, we made our chocolate factory with an open footprint so you can watch chocolate being made all the way from the cacao bean to the chocolate bar. We also give a behind-the-scenes tour of our factory and Chocolate 101 classes where among other things, you will actually get your hands involved in the making process.

Second difference, we make real chocolate using two ingredients, the cacao bean and organic evaporated cane juice. It is simple and pure, allowing the unique flavor notes of the bean to sing in your mouth! This chocolate is interesting, flavorful and satisfying. We do not mold or work with chocolate finished outside of our factory. The chocolate you taste at our factory & tasting room is  all made right there by our Creo team.

Third difference, we brew chocolate drinks at our Chocolate Brew Bar.  After roasting our beans, we will grind some and brew them similar to coffee, but with the complex chocolaty flavors and subtle aromas the come right from the cacao bean itself. It is different than a hot chocolate which we will also serve, because it is not dairy based. It can be drank brown and pure or creatively mixed with creamer/sweetener.

The ultimate superfood drink, it contains no sugar, no dairy, no sodium, no cholesterol, yet is extremely high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, heart healthy magnesium and theobromine which provides natural, healthy energy.

The fourth difference, we buy our beans directly from our farmer. Having been farmers for 16 years, our heart seeks out the source and integrity of ingredients and the connection with the grower. This means a relationship. We know about his farm because we have been there and walked among the trees and eaten in their kitchen. There are faces on our chocolate.

The fifth reason our chocolate is different, we believe in making a difference in the world and we are doing that through creating chocolate. We decided from the beginning that $1 from every chocolate bar that we sold we would give for this purpose. Our Creo team keeps their eyes out and ears open to needs that we can contribute to, then we post this on our “Chocolate Love” wall and keep the dollar amount updated daily until it’s time to “share the love”.  You will find a jar with $1 bills on our counter for each bar sold as a very visual reminder that we believe in making a difference. That’s a real part of the Creo story.

So now, what’s so different about our chocolate?

The story of our logo

The bean is central, where we start in creating real, handcrafted chocolate.

The branches show us reaching out to create real relationships with farmers who grow our ingredients, with customers who become part of the Creo family and with our community.

The leaves provide a canopy covering, a healthy, growing part of the tree that seeks to serve others; creating real change by helping those in need in our local and global community.