Portland Walking Tours

Meet One of Portland’s Premier Chocolate Purveyors: An Interview with the Owner of Cacao

December 4th, 2015

We love chocolate, and we love Cacao, one of the premier establishments in Portland to consume this favorite food in its many delicious variations and forms. Co-owners Jesse Manis and Aubrey Lindley are behind the magic of Cacao, which has two downtown locations, both open seven days a week. Noteworthy is their drinking chocolate, which recently landed on Portland Monthly’s short list of Best Hot Chocolate in the city. We are proud to have them as a partner on our Chocolate Decadence walking tour, and thought it would be fun learn more about the genius behind their operation. Read on to find out Jesse’s favorite way to consume chocolate, the inside scoop on white chocolate, what you’ll find at Cacao for the holidays, and so much more!

Portland Walking Tours: How would you describe the experience of visiting Cacao to someone who has never been there?

Jesse Manis: We offer a multi-faceted chocolate experience which gives people the opportunity to experience solid chocolates and confections from the best chocolate makers and chocolatiers from this country and around the world, all in one store! We offer house-made Drinking Chocolates and Hot Chocolates to complete the experience.

PWT: What drew you to the world of chocolate?

JM: I have always loved chocolate and after attending pastry school in Seattle I began working for Fran’s Chocolates where I worked in various positions for 10 years. Towards the end of that period my partner and I were aware of a growing trend which we found exciting; small batch artisan bean-to bar-chocolate producers. We moved to Portland in 2005 and opened Cacao on SW 13th to celebrate these producers along with the most talented regional chocolatiers.

PWT: Why did you decide to partner with PWT and what benefits have you found from being part of their tours?

JM: PWT has been a great partner. It originally occurred because PWT used to begin many of their tours at the Heathman Hotel where we have a location. It has been a great way for us to extend our reach to clients who might otherwise not have made it into our stores. It is also fun to briefly have a captive audience allowing us to share with them what we are all about. We often hear that people first found out about our store from attending a walking tour!

PWT: What are the 3 first words you think of when you hear the word “chocolate”?

JM: Hahaha…Aroma, mouth-feel and snap…or Nourishment, pleasure, sustenance.

PWT: What is one of your favorite chocolate memories? Do you have a favorite childhood chocolate memory?

JM: Lots of vivid childhood memories involve chocolate. Discovering baker’s chocolate (yuck!), discovering Mexican chocolate (amazing!), first Toblerone bar, first adult experience with fine chocolate from Fran’s Chocolates in Seattle.

PWT: Do you have a favorite way to consume chocolate?

JM: I love drinking chocolate. The heady aromatic experience of being enveloped in rich dark chocolate is a wonderful thing. The flavors are more immediate and vivid and there is a rush of chocolate as it fills your mouth.

PWT: How do you prefer to describe yourself? Possible terms: chocolate enthusiast, choco-fiend, chocoholic…

JM: If I was choosing between those three options I would go with enthusiast. People have made up terms for themselves in this industry, and people have called us made-up names, but really there isn’t a term for what we do- it requires a whole phrase. Fine chocolate purveyors, curators, promoters and educators covers most of what we do.

PWT: What trends do you see happening with chocolate?

JM: “Big Culinary Players” entering the Craft Chocolate movement. The continued evolution of the consumer’s confidence in their own palate allowing them to understand the difference between great chocolate and chocolate that is riddled with flaws.

PWT: White chocolate is popular this time of year. What do you say when people turn up their noses and say “that’s not chocolate”?

JM: We deal in pleasure sensation first and foremost. We don’t believe in food shaming. Everybody likes what they like. We make a white chocolate mocha that is delicious. We also carry several white chocolate bars including a white chocolate bar with lemon and sea salt in it. We like to focus on delicious things rather than rules. That said white chocolate doesn’t provide any of the chemical function of dark chocolate. It is only made with the fat from the cocoa beans, (which is a very healthy fat) but the stimulants and anti-oxidants are removed, and replaced with sugar and milk powder. It’s definitely not as good for you as dark chocolate, and may not provide the mental relaxation and stimulation. But most people aren’t eating chocolate for the health benefits anyways, so eat what you like!

PWT: Be honest, do you ever get sick of chocolate?

JM: No. I do get sick of lousy chocolate though. Bad chocolate is bad chocolate whether it is made in small batches or industrial batches.

PWT: Can you tell us what you have planned for the holidays coming up at Cacao?

JM: The holidays are the busiest time of year for us as you might expect so in a sense we do less special things than we do other times of year but…..We will have some delicious chocolate in festive shapes, we will help clients create perfect customized chocolate selections for all of their gift recipients all while keeping them warm and satisfied with chocolate drinks. We are very busy between Christmas and New Years with people visiting with their families which we love!

Come see and taste for yourself what makes Cacao so special by paying a visit to one of their stores at 414 SW 13th Avenue and 712 SW Salmon Street. For more information about Cacao, or to order online, visit cacaodrinkchocolate.com.

The Chocolate Decadence walking tour is given year-round on Saturdays and Sundays at 3:30 PM. To purchase tickets, gift certificates, or for more information, visit portlandwalkingtours.com or call 503-774-4522.


Article by Natasha Kelly


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