This family-run chocolate manufactory located in Portland, Oregon is run by wife and husband team Jessica and Charley Wheelock. Their passion for craft chocolate sent them on a journey towards understanding and perfecting every step of the bean-to-bar process – and all that had work really paid off.
Read our interview below and learn about the goings-on at their spacious Manufactory – where all of their delicious craft chocolate is produced.
Keep reading to discover more about Woodblock Chocolate.
What sparked your passion for crafting chocolate?
My wife and I were looking for a viable family business that would keep our interest and exercise our creative muscles. Neither of us are very techie, coming from artisanal backgrounds, so we wanted to do something that was physical in nature. When my wife discovered the difference between a chocolatier and a chocolate maker, we did some research, and both fell madly in love with the process of chocolate making. At that point, (2010) there were very few small-scale chocolate makers in the country, so we went for it.
What are some of the biggest upgrades you’ve made in your operation since starting out in your kitchen?
We have upgraded everything! Everything from machinery to the physical space we call our manufactory have scaled up. We are presently finding a bit of a bottleneck in our finishing department so I think we are going to look at being able to upgrade our tempering room next. It is always something:)
What’s a typical day like at your chocolate manufactory?
Because of Covid 19, we have trimmed our staff pretty much completely. Presently it is only my wife, my daughter and I who are doing everything. I think I probably take a million steps each day in the manufactory as I multitask to create the chocolate. It is not uncommon at all for me to do a little of everything in a day. While the temper is dropping on my tempering machine, I might be loading our melangeur with nibs that I am winnowing and refining as needed. I will frequently make a few deliveries, answer some emails, and run our SIG wrapping machine at intervals while I am doing the chocolate making. It is a little hectic but I have a good system that makes it so I can work constantly all day without stopping. Is that a great system?? Haha! I feel very efficient though. The only day I will not multitask is roasting day. This requires all of my attention and I do not want to dilute my focus when I roast cocoa beans. Meanwhile, my wife will be taking care of everything else from accounting to billing to restocking our supplies and making my production schedule. We meet frequently to look into each other's eyes and remind ourselves how lucky we are to have such a fun and rigorous business together.
How are Micelli molds integral to your final product?
We are very brand oriented and the look of our bars from the mold to the packaging is very important. I designed the woodgrain pattern of our bars and sent that information to Micelli who translated it into very nice polycarbonate molds. They have taken a beating over the past ten years and are still a key component to our overall look. We love them.
Are there any processes or techniques you are interested in incorporating into your chocolate-making repertoire?
We would like to figure out an affordable way to incorporate inclusions in our bars that will work with our tempering and bar wrapping process. This would open the door to a bunch of great ideas that are presently hard to execute as it is very difficult to clean our tempering process between batches without migration of material from one batch the next.
What products in your line are you most excited for a person new to your chocolate to try?
We have a line of chocolates we call "Resting Chocolate" Chocolate has fat in it (cocoa butter) and fat will pick up ambient fragrances and turn them into part of the flavor profile. This is usually a bad thing. Chocolate might have an off flavor if the cocoa beans were dried downwind from a diesel motor, or it might have a painty flavor if it was shipped in a newly painted container. If, like butter, you leave chocolate in your refrigerator, it may take on the smell of your fridge! No Good!! But after wrecking a bunch of chocolate bars with a new vinyl dust cover (made the batch taste like a shower curtain) I thought that we should store chocolate with a complimentary aroma. The testing worked so well! The process is called enfleurage and we use it with a variety of chocolates that we pair with coffee, tea, hops, and a bunch of other amazing fragrant items. The flavor that the fragrant ingredient adds is remarkable. It is clean and beautiful, and I am not sure anyone else is doing it.
For The Love of Making Chocolate,
The Micelli Team