Cocanu Factory Tour
Cocanu was the last stop on our chocolate road trip. Their small space isn't open to the public, but we were able to schedule a tour and tasting with Founder, Sebastian Cisneros. He is a soft-spoken man with a kind personality and creative spirit. He was born and raised in Quito, Ecuador where his love for cacao began.
"My earliest memory with cacao and chocolate dates back to when I was five years old. The whole family was squeezed into the car cruising through the tropical lowlands of Ecuador where we began to cross patches of fermented cacao beans drying on the side of the road. The windows were down and suddenly a novel aroma invaded us with violence. My family didn't get enough giggles from my desperate confusion but then twisted my little brain even further by trying to convince me that such monster, called "cacao", had the special power to transform into my oldest obsession, chocolate."
Cisneros works mostly with cacao and other agricultural products coming from Ecuador as a homage to his culture. An example would be the Holy Wood bar which he makes by infusing a block of sustainable Palo Santo wood into the chocolate. In South America, this wood is burned for ceremonial and healing purposes. Its distinct smell reminds him of home and has tastes of cinnamon, smoke, and earth.
After coming to Oregon as an exchange student and graduating the University of Portland, Cisneros stayed put. He started Cocanu after experiencing the city's single-origin coffee boom and noting its similarities to cacao.
Cocanu specializes in chocolate made with unusual inclusions like the Moonwalk bar which is a dark chocolate adorned with cacao nibs and Pop Rocks. Or the GOMA which is a gray chocolate featuring black sesame seeds and matcha. Cocanu's small 1 oz bars are packed into a thick paper envelope and closed off with a wax seal.
Although Cisneros has worked with couverture for some of his chocolate bars in the past, he is stepping away from that and going full bean-to-bar with new origins, inclusions, packaging, and potentially even opening a cafe. Stay tuned.