Named for the bean from which chocolate is made, Cacao is not your average candy store. With 150 bars of chocolate from 30 of the best premium chocolate producers in the world, plus handmade truffles from 15 of the region’s best chocolatiers, Cacao is chocolate nirvana. Cacao’s two elegant shops—a 290-square-foot jewel box in the Heathman Hotel and a chic, slightly larger address in the hip Pearl District—have a hushed, reverential feel, but snobbery is blessedly absent. Instead, chocophiles will encounter friendly owners Jesse Manis and Aubrey Lindley and their passionate, well-trained staff who happily educate concerned customers about the issues around chocolate production.
Instead of bars made from commodity market chocolate, Cacao carries only chocolate from premium chocolate companies that are so small, they often have a direct relationship with their small-scale cacao farmers. This limited chain of ownership and distribution not only yields stunning chocolates with all the nuances of a fine wine, but also benefits the laborers, who earn better than fair-trade prices, and the biodiversity of the areas where the shade-loving cacao beans are grown. Visitors will find socially responsible brands like Hacienda el Vizia (chocolate made at the plantation), Askinosie Chocolates (donates 10 percent of net profits to their farmers), and Pacari, a line of organic, single-origin Ecuadorian bars. After browsing, try a shot of the made-to-order “drinking chocolate,” an intense, thicker version of hot chocolate made with single origin chocolates and local milk.
Photo: Cacao Portland