Sarah Hart has always been obsessed with really good chocolate.
This obsession serves her well as the owner of the Portland craft chocolate company, Alma Chocolate, which operates two shops in the city.
As a chocolatier, Hart says her role is different from that of a chocolate maker.
“I take chocolate that somebody has already made and I turn it into other things,” said Hart.
She was inspired to become a chocolatier while shopping for chocolate bunnies for her son a few years ago. The chocolate looked waxy and uninspiring, and Hart remembers thinking she wanted to create chocolate with a more appealing look and flavor.
One of Alma’s signature products is a line of gold-covered chocolate icons. She said the icons were inspired by the Latin root of the word cacao, theobroma, which translates to “food of the gods.”
Hart covers the solid-chocolate icons in gold leaf through a process that is both labor- and time- intensive. The icons come in the shapes of the Virgin Mary, Hindu gods such as Ganesh and holiday icons such as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
Hart said she sees chocolate as a form of expression.
“People give chocolate to express love or to treat themselves … and I feel like all of that language, the language of religion, the language of sexuality and the language of so many things is there in chocolate.”
In January, Alma Chocolate took home an award from the prestigious Good Food Awards for its iconic Pistachio Toffee. The toffee was one of the first products Alma ever produced. The recipe is based on an English toffee recipe used by Hart’s mother.
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