Owner and Chocolatier at Missionary Chocolates
Melissa Berry is on a mission. A graduate of the National College of Natural Medicine and a certified ND, Berry is not kidding when she stamps “doctor approved” across her Missionary Chocolate truffle boxes. For Berry, what started as a special treat for her ailing mother has now become a platform for Berry to share what she is most passionate about: the importance of integrated healthcare and her mission to fund Portland’s first integrated hospital.
Berry’s inspiration for her truffles comes from her mother, a dedicated vegan who also happens to love chocolate. “The first time I made truffles for my mom, I made Tofutti truffles, I made soy milk truffles, rice milk truffles, and coconut milk truffles,” Berry remembers. “The only thing that came close to non-vegan truffles were the coconut milk truffles.” As Berry explains, “Traditional truffles are made with heavy cream, butter, and egg yolks, so coconut milk, which has a high fat content and also tends to have a low allergenic potential for most people, replicates that creaminess of non-vegan choco- late.”
Berry’s hand-dipped coconut milk truffles where such a hit that in 2008 she decided it was time to start her own company. Berry’s Meyer lemon truffle won first place at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Berry’s first year of business, only reinforcing her goal of paving the way for better health- care through her lovingly-crafted treats. “It made me think, what if I could sell chocolate and change medicine?” Berry recalls.
Missionary Chocolates currently offers a variety of truffles including espresso, cinnamon chipotle, vanilla salted caramel, and peppermint. Incorporating local products is one of Berry’s tenets. “We use local coffee, local peppermint oil from the Seely Family Farm, and local berries in our raspberry truffles in the summertime,” she explains. And, in addition to being gluten and nut free, Missionary Chocolates doesn’t use preservatives or artificial ingredients. “That’s what I think has been popular about my truffles,” Berry says. “The flavors are true and strong.”
In 2011, Berry moved operations from her small apartment to a new retail space, allowing for increased truffle production thanks to her new Hilliard topping machine. She regularly opens her doors for visits by elementary school children and seniors, and is also happy to create custom truffles for special events. Additionally, she’s working on providing sugar-free truffles, experimenting with coconut palm sugar and stevia. “Its fun to be able to offer something that’s a better choice,” Berry says.
Missionary Chocolates’ continued growth also means that Berry is taking steps closer to reaching her ultimate goal, all while providing her customers with a little something sweet. “It’s given me the opportunity to say hey, we need to fund medicine, we need more access, because pipe dream aside, even if I never get close to building a hospital, though I believe we will, I still hope to have opened up some ground as far as letting people know there are other options,” she explains.
And while it is certainly Berry’s drive and passion that has led her company to the success it’s had so far, Berry also realizes that her Portland community has played a huge role as well. “Being located in Portland is absolutely the reason that we’ve done so well,” she says. “People are more aware of what they’re eating, they care about why companies exist, they care about what you’re putting in your product. I think people appreciate that we’re not just a chocolate company.”
Missionary Chocolates are available at Berry’s retail shop, as well as through several other local venders and at various Portland-area farmers markets.