After last week’s article about drinking chocolate, it feels timely to present our first Local Focus feature, on Portland’s Cacao. Written on the door of this beautiful shop in downtown Portland’s west end are three words: Cacao drink chocolate. The first one is descriptive—inside you’re going to find chocolate, and plenty of it. The second two are an order—drink chocolate.
Open since 2006, Cacao is a two-pronged business. And they do mean business with their drinking chocolates! To get the full experience, I recommend ordering a flight, made up of all three of the drinking chocolates on offer. What you will receive packs more flavors and textures than might seem possible in such a modest-looking presentation.
Sit back and get ready to enjoy these three small ceramic cups filled with:
- Rivoli dark drinking chocolate. Crafted in the French tradition (which means there are no thickeners added), and named after the Rue de Rivoli in Paris (where I first tried this type of drinking Chocolate, at Cafe Angelina!), this dark drinking chocolate is made from half whole milk and heavy cream, and half melted chocolate. The 72% chocolate is made by a Swiss company called Felchlin from a very special Ecuadorian bean called Arriba Nacional, which most palates will find contains traditional comfort notes of nuts and caramel.
- Spicy dark drinking chocolate. This is basically the Rivoli style with the addition of ginger, smoked paprika, cayenne, and a touch of coconut milk. It has just the right amount of heat, not shocking the tongue or overwhelming the chocolate, but providing a nice tingle that lingers in the throat.
- Cinnamon milk drinking chocolate. This lighter version of the drinking chocolate is composed of a mix of milk and dark chocolates with a little higher proportion of dairy, and the addition of a touch of Saigon cinnamon. This might be my favorite of the three!
The other half of Cacao’s business features a very carefully curated collection of craft-batch chocolates from around the world. This is an unusual and very special selection, with a depth and breadth of choices rarely found in any chocolate shop, no matter what city you’re in. A comprehensive inventory of what’s on the shop’s shelves today found chocolate from 27 different countries of origin!
Cacao believes in featuring the best chocolates available on the marketplace today, and their selection is always changing as new products emerge. On a recent tour of the shop, a staff member estimated that perhaps 85% of the makers on their shelves were not even in business when Cacao first opened 12 years ago—that’s how fast the world of flavor-bean cacao is expanding. It’s a great place to find makers who might be hard to find or underrepresented in the marketplace, and you will also find a nice selection of Portland bean-to-bar makers and chocolatiers.
p.s. We’ve just had our first two summery days of the season here in Portland, with temperatures soaring into the 80s. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Cacao also offers affogato (Italian for “drowned”), with local Salt & Straw arbequina olive oil ice cream topped with espresso, drinking chocolate, or a mixture of the two!