In Portland, you don’t have to look very far to find a bean-to-bar chocolate maker. Starting alphabetically, I could list Cloudforest, and Creo, and Pitch Dark, and Ranger, and Woodblock. . . but wait, you say. What about Alma? And Cacao? And Missionary? And Moonstruck (to name just a few of the more well-known Portland companies)? Don’t they make chocolate too?
Well, yes and no. In the chocolate business, chocolate maker means something very specific. Chocolate makers begin with dried cocoa beans (grown in the tropics, within 20% north and south of the equator), and put them through a complicated series of steps to make chocolate. They may have relationships with individual cacao farmers, and can be closely tied to the communities that depend on cacao farming to exist.
The word chocolatier refers to culinary artisans who take that already-made chocolate and create a virtually infinite variety of confections. Does that make chocolatiers any less skilled or valuable than chocolate makers? I’m not going to go down that road! I do know that chocolatiers do depend on high-quality bean-to-bar chocolate; I also know chocolatiers who dream up more interesting and complex flavor and texture combinations than you can imagine!
Of course, there are bean-to-bar producers who then create confections (with inclusions and added flavorings and coatings, for example), which would be classified both as chocolate makers and chocolatiers! As we will see, Portland has no shortage of this category as well. Lucky us!