Charley and Jessica Wheelock from Woodblock Chocolate share their chocolate making story
Charley and Jessica Wheelock started making chocolate just like any other craft enthusiast in Portland did – at home, in their modest kitchen, passionately experimenting and tweaking. But it wasn’t long before their passion grew too big for their little kitchen. And to keep up with demand, they moved into their own factory southeast of Portland. Jessica and Charley both have backgrounds in fine art, design and creative art direction, a fine eye for perfection and a big passion for exquisite flavors. Charley, whose background was in industrial design, took classes and read books on the science behind the anatomy of cacao beans and the chocolate-making process while studying the different types of beans. They would travel to where the cacao beans are grown to learn more about the beans they use and how the beans are farmed and processed. Not only was that important for him, he also wanted to know that the working and living conditions of the framers are well taken care of.
Chocolate making is a time-consuming process but the payout is well worth the hard work. In Charley's Woodblock factory, you will find an ancient 1910 Royal No5 drum coffee roaster (Charley, with his industrial design background, altered the machine for roasting cacao beans) which roasts all the beans before they get separated from the hull in a winnowing machine. The nibs (inside of the cacao bean) are then grounded up in a coanchers (a large scale grinder with stone wheels inside to grind down the beans into fine paste) where sugar is added depending on the recipe. Once the chocolate liquor is ready, it is then poured into metal trays to cool down and slowly harden. The chocolate is then stored away carefully for aging. The final process is tempering where the chocolate liquor is melted again through a tempering machine, poured into molds and bars are hand-wrapped, ready for consumption. The entire process is heavily meticulously, but of course, The Wheelocks always have time for experimenting and tweaking.