Batter Chatter: Interview with Sarah Leoni of Coco & Co. Fine Chocolates

Photo used w/Permission from Coco & Co
My mother claims my first word (other than, you know, ma and pa) was "chocolate". While I have no memory of the incident, why would she lie about something like this?

This is all, of course, to say, that I have had a lifelong relationship with chocolate--as a consumer. And while my tastes may not be so refined that I can calculate cacao percentages upon a single bite, I do know what I like. And I definitely like Coco & Co., a Portland-based chocolate company specializing in a variety of truffles, barks, and mendiants (fancy chocolate medallions). Want to learn more? Here's a brief interview with Sarah Leoni, the owner and head chocolate girl, who developed a deep love of chocolate in Lyon, France:

CakeSpy: What did you do before you started this company?
Sarah Leoni: I've done lots of odds and ends jobs, everything from being a barista to working in a Microbiology lab to teaching French and Italian and most recently as manager of a salon and spa. Each one taught me a little about what I wanted to do with my life and how to start a business.

CS: What took you to Lyon , France?
SL: I had always dreamed of living in Europe, so when I was in school I gravitated towards languages. I studied French and Italian and was able to spend a year abroad in both Italy and France. The majority of that year was in Lyon.
Photo used w/Permission from Coco & Co
CS: You cite Lyon as the place that really sparked your interest in chocolatemaking. Did you study chocolatemaking there?
SL: If you count eating chocolate all the time, then yes, I studied chocolate there. But no, not formally. I was there to study French language and culture.



CS: So then, was it just the culture?
SL: In part, I think the inspiration for me to start a business has been there all my life and my love of chocolate was innate. But being in France definitely guided a deeper appreciation for savoring life's pleasures - for taking the time to really enjoy what we eat and drink and do. Also, the chocolateries and the patisseries in France felt like home for me - I could see myself behind their counters. Going into them wasn't just about buying a sweet, it was a way to daydream about the future.  

CS: How has chocolatemaking affected how you look at other chocolate? Has it deepened your appreciation, made you more critical, etc?
SL: Making my own chocolates has made me more critical and more appreciative. I have less tolerance for chocolate that is mass-produced, over-flavored and too sweet. I can notice subtle nuances in chocolate that I couldn't before, so I'm very happy when I find chocolate that is obviously made with care.

Photo used w/Permission from Coco & Co
CS: What is your ultimate chocolate dream?
SL: In terms of chocolate, my dream is to participate in the growing, harvesting and hands-on production of the cocoa beans. I want to make my own chocolate from bean to bar. I want to see that the people growing the trees are getting paid a living wage - I want to connect with the birth of chocolate, the rich history, the cultures it comes from and the lives it supports.

Photo used w/Permission from Coco & Co
Excited? Well, you should be. If you want more, Coco & Co. will be selling chocolate at the following upcoming events in Portland, OR: 
  • November 7: Hip Happening, from 11am-5pm at the Sellwood Masonic Lodge, 7126 SE Milwaukie
  • November 20: Handmade NW Holiday Market, from 10am-6pm at the World Trade Center Plaza, Downtown Portland
  • November 24th: Moreland Holiday Farmer's Market, from 3PM-7PM at the Boys and Girls Club at 7119 SE Milwaukie 
  • December 6: Handmade NW Formal Holiday Artisans Fair, from 11am-6pm at The Chelsea Ballroom
  • December 13: Crafty Wonderland Super Colossal Holiday Sale, from 11am - 7pm at the Oregon Convention Center, Exhibit Hall D, 777 NE MLK Jr. Blvd.

Online shopping is forthcoming; in the meantime, check out what they have to offer (and marvel at the gorgeous photography, largely by Ryan Nowell, at