Handmade in Portland: Mana Chocolates Lead the Bean-to-Bar Scene

Mana Chocolates lead Portland's Bean-to-Bar Scene.

Portland has often been at the forefront of culinary revolutions in this country. From farm-t0-table restaurants to the IPA craze, Portland is arguably ground zero when it comes to food trends. And while most astute readers can spot these trends as they happen, one that is still a bit under-the-radar is the bean-to-bar scene. We’re talking chocolate here. Handmade chocolate, crafted in small batches that is sold at specialty stores and bars, to a discerning clientele. Portland has several top-shelf chocolatiers but Mana Chocolate is often cited as the best of the best. Proprietress Holly Hukill crafts dark, rich chocolates in her small kitchen in SW Portland.

What makes Mana so special? Hukill does everything by hand. From the sorting to the roasting to the tempering and molding. Much of the cacao is from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Peru. She also only sources the finest ingredients and if you look at the back of the bar, you won’t find the usual fillers and emulsifiers. It’s just cacao and cane sugar with a batch number attached, so you know it’s an artisanal product. What’s the end result? Chocolate that is deep and rich and coats the tongue. That offers hits of caramel, citrus and coffee, among other flavors.

“I started making chocolate in 2010, and continue to meticulously handcraft my chocolate from bean to bar. I’m one of the first female chocolate makers and am excited to see more women gradually coming onto the scene,” Hukill says.

Mana is available at Barrique Barrel, Cacao, Cork, Foster & Dobbs and Portland Bottle Shop in Portland. Californians can get the sweets at Blackmarket Bakery in Costa Mesa, Chocolate Covered in San Francisco and The Curious Palate in Los Angeles. New Yorkers can find them at The Meadow in the West Village

Cacao sourced from Venezuela is a Mana Chocolate staple.

Cacao sourced from Venezuela is a Mana Chocolate staple.