Tim, Janet, and Kevin
Lucky us having Creo Chocolate as neighbors!
Being walking distance from a chocolate wonderland makes us really happy. Visit Creo’s alluring cafe for deluxe brownies, brewed cacao, hot chocolate, chocolate soda – and, of course, their signature bars. For the full experience, book a tour of their factory where you’ll get to concoct your very own bar. Creo’s *award-winning chocolate is all handcrafted from scratch. They are involved in every aspect of the process, working directly with farmers in Equador and then performing the alchemy of turning dried cacao beans into fabulous chocolate bars, truffles, skincare products,
“Creating: Real Chocolate – Real Relationships – Real Change” is the motto at Creo. Their Chocolate for Change program is a sweet example of one way they’re making a difference in the world. The Washu Project helps support farmers, wildlife and the environment. So if you needed another reason to savor delicious chocolate, this one’s for you.
A big thank you to Tim, Janet, and Kevin for sharing their story along with all their wonderful chocolate products! If you are local or visiting Portland, we highly recommend a trip to Creo’s Cafe and Factory. The Make-a-Bar tour is a fun, fascinating way to learn about hand-crafted chocolate – plus you’ll get to sample it in a variety of surprising forms and unique flavors.
What do you enjoy most about making and selling handcrafted chocolate?
We enjoy handcrafting something special that brings pleasure to people. It is more than the chocolate, it is about relationships. People enjoy chocolate on special occasions, for celebrating, for cheering themselves up or someone else, for gifts and encouragement and a treat to savor. It is also about crafting a product from ethical practices that doesn’t exploit people and helps to make change in the way that farmers are compensated for their product. Plus it is very satisfying to start with a cacao bean and make a number of finished products, being involved in every step of the way. We love getting feedback from our customers and product ideas. Craft chocolate is an interesting and young process which lends itself well in exciting our creative juices.
Has anything been surprising or challenging about being in the chocolate business?
One of our challenges with a handcrafted product is education about the reason this product has a higher price tag and why should anyone care. As consumers, we are generally used to inexpensive chocolate but much of it comes from not paying the farmer a living wage and slavery in West Africa. We now spend a lot of time in education and it is so fulfilling to see people get excited about craft chocolate just like we did when we first learned about it.
Tell us about your favorite Creo products and flavors – and what you love about them.
Our chocolate bars and products are like our kids, we love them all but they each have their own story and personality! So I will highlight a few of them.
The Dark Mint bar is Janet’s personal favorite for driving in busy traffic. She says it takes her to a calm, peaceful place as she drives! The mint was paired for our bar from Yakima, WA. The Dark Orange is very unique in that we flavored it with dried orange juice and integrated orange zest infused sugar crystals to give pops of orange. This was Tim’s creation and his go-to when he wants to snack. Another favorite of Tim’s is the Washu Project. The beans come from a community of farmers in the Ecuadorian rainforest who are growing cacao in the deforested areas and bringing back the Washu, which is the most endangered species of spider monkey in Ecuador. The taste is smooth and well rounded and we are thrilled to be able to partner with these farmers in sustainability at so many different levels. It recently won a gold medal at the Academy of Chocolate in London.
We all really enjoy the Whiskey Dark Milk Chocolate. Infusing the nibs with Westward Whiskey for many months and sprinkling with mesquite smoked sea salt gives this bar very complex notes and is our snacking bar! When Janet goes to the “bar”, this is the bar she frequents and carries this one in her purse! This bar also recently won a gold medal in London. Kevin personally enjoys the Hazelnut chocolate spread. NW hazelnuts make this extra special and believe me, this spread finds its way onto almost anything he can spread it on or just eating out of the jar!
We spent a lot of time designing our mould and we like that the bars can be easily broken into 18 squares for sharing or savoring piece by piece.
Your Make-a-Bar tour and Chocolate 101 class are very intriguing. How did you get started doing them and do you have any fun stories from those events?
Our tours and classes come from our own love of learning. We enjoy learning how things are made and figured we aren’t the only ones so we decided from the beginning to open our shop up and give people a peek into the making of a well-loved food that few people know how is made. We feel that as guests learn then they are empowered to make educated decisions with their choices of chocolate. Chocolate with simple, clean ingredients, sustainability for farmers and makers, and ethically produced. The tours are Janet’s “happy place” where she and all of us can connect and build relationships with Portland area locals and world-wide visitors.
In addition to all the delicious edible chocolate offerings, we learned that you have a skincare line as well. Can you tell us more about that and what other new products are in the works?
The body butter and lip balm was recently released for Mother’s Day this last spring. The skincare line came from Janet’s own use of our cocoa butter on her skin. She uses vitamin-rich butters and oils with the cocoa butter to give a healing and moisturizing treat to skin. It is amazing for massaging tired chocolate-making muscles as well!
Another bar that is in the works is our Mocha. We are eating the R & D with that now. It is wonderful for breakfast!
We love that you work directly with farmers in Ecuador.
How has that relationship affected you and the decisions you make for Creo?
Our connection with farming goes back to the 17 years that we farmed raspberries and strawberries with our 8 children in Ridgefield, WA. It taught us a lot about life, faith and hard work. When we started making chocolate we knew that we wanted to be connected to the farmers who grew the cacao we would be using. We enjoy the direct-trade relationship we have with our farmers and it gives us a sense of accountability, respect and mutual goals of sustainability, ethical practices and an excellent product. We send chocolate back and forth, comparing tasting notes and techniques. When we win an award or receive feedback we reflect that back to our farmers as well because we all “make” the chocolate. This is also reflected in the cost of our products. It is a top priority for our farmer to make a living wage so he can continue to farm the beautiful cacao that we use.
From your many chocolate travel adventures, is there a stand-out experience you’d like to share?
One that stands out is when we were in the airport security line coming back from Ecuador for the first time. We were sent to the back of the line with our suitcases full of dried cacao beans. It made us nervous even though bringing the beans into the country was totally legit. When we got to the front, the inspectors said we weren’t in trouble they just had not ever seen dried cacao beans and wanted to take a peek and smell them! Also, when we were in Ecuador the monkeys were eating the cacao fruit and throwing the seeds at us. You know, those beans are actually quite precious for making our chocolate with but we got out of their way pretty quickly!
Is there anything you’d especially like readers to know about Creo?
We get asked often if Creo is our last name. No it isn’t. Creo in Spanish means “I believe” and in Latin “to create, to make.” Those meanings actually describe well what our family believes in… creating something that we can make a difference with. We try to make a difference by making real chocolate, real relationships and real change. The more you get to know us and our chocolate you realize that those three “reals” drive everything that we do at Creo and how we approach our business and life.
We’re so happy to have you as a neighbor and client! What you like best about Evermine?
We are so happy to have discovered Evermine! We like that you are local and our neighbors…. door to door delivery sometimes, getting in a little exercise and fresh air even. We appreciate that Evermine cares about quality and getting the job done right the first time. We had difficulty with some different labeling that did not work well from a previous project and Evermine worked with us to solve the problem and the solution works really well now and was done in a timely manner. Thanks!
*Creo’s 2019 Awards from the Academy of Chocolate, London include:
Salted Bon-Bon: SILVER Black Lava Salted Caramel
Other Caramel: BRONZE Whiskey Caramel
Dark Bean to Bar under 90%: GOLD The Washu Project
Bean to Bar Flavoured: GOLD Dark Toasted Coconut
Milk Bean to Bar Flavoured: GOLD Whiskey Milk
White Bean to Bar: BRONZE Caramelized White
White Bean to Bar Flavoured: SILVER Coffee and Cream
Drinking Chocolate, Flavoured: BRONZE Minty Sipping