The parallels between modern chocolate, at least modern American chocolate, and modern coffee—the primacy of single-origins, the emphasis on lighter roasts, the premium on small batches—guaranteed that these kindred crafts would eventually shack up together. In Portland, Trailhead Coffee Roasters and newcomer Ranger Chocolate moved into a vacuum seller’s old warehouse, splitting the back half into a roastery, kitchen, and chocolate factory, and devoting the front to a shared café called Cup & Bar.
The co-housing idea came up last year. Charlie Wicker knew Trailhead was fast outgrowing its roasting space and wanted to open a café that had plenty of forethought (their old shop was called, appropriately, the Accidental Café). Meanwhile, a group of four friends—George Domurot, David Beanland, Rhonda Zender, and Patrick Zender—had begun making chocolate and decided to start a company. The pairing made sense.
Cup & Bar reflects both companies’ outdoorsy names with wooden tables and even a log-seat or two. Drip coffee is served in camping cups and the drinking chocolate—a decadent wallop offered in three varieties—comes on a minimally worked plank. Slivers of chocolate accompany espresso drinks made on a Slayer machine. The menu, both for food and drinks, is decidedly decadent. Alex Sparks, who manages the café, brings a sophisticated palate to fare as filling as the avocado and ricotta toast or as invigorating as the cold fashioned, a cold-brew mocktail twist on the classic bar favorite.
When coffee and chocolate workspaces are brought so close together, the similarities between the two (lots of jute bags and plastic bins filled with beans) are buried in the avalanche of differences in production. The roastery is warm and looks, as many roasteries do, as much like a mechanic shop as a food-safe space can. Materials are organized to be moved regularly. The chocolate factory is cool, almost cold, with the beans stored in a climate-controlled room. One batch of Ranger chocolate takes nearly a month to go from the convection oven all the way to the foil wrapper, so the organization is predicated on cleanliness and care.
Once the beans and the bars reach the barista station, though, the similarities roar back. Chocolate and coffee. They’re just supposed to be together.
—Cory Eldridge is Fresh Cup’s editor.