Mike Caven has been a resident of Cottage Grove and a firefighter for the last 15 years. But when Caven isn’t on call at the station, he owns and operates a small batch chocolate shop, Sanity Chocolate. From bean-to-bar, every step of the process is done by hand.
While Caven plans on opening a chocolate manufacturing facility with a storefront in Cottage Grove this summer, his love for chocolate wasn’t always a business.
“It was a hobby that got out of proportion very quickly,” Caven said.
Caven was introduced to small batch chocolate making five years ago, after touring a cocoa bean farm while on vacation in Kauai, Hawaii. Desiring an artistic outlet, Caven researched chocolate making on the internet. He took it up as a hobby a year ago which turned into a growing business.
“I needed something that I could create. That’s the reward, seeing that raw bean transition from a bean into a bar that people want,” Caven said.
The entire process to produce a single batch of chocolate takes three days. Caven gets his beans through brokers from around the world in sacks that weigh up to 150 pounds. He then sorts the beans, roasts and cracks the shells and then refines them. After the chocolate is produced, it’s aged and tempered in order to make it shine and give it its snap when breaking.
Caven produces a variety of chocolate he sells in one to two ounce bars for $2 an ounce. Caven loves to add his own touch to each recipe, from making white chocolate to a Peruvian chocolate that tastes like apple pie.
“The one thing about chocolate, especially bean-to-bar chocolate, is that you impart your skills, your touch into the chocolate in every step of the process. So, the final product will taste different. You roast longer, refine longer, age longer, all of those things are going to make the chocolate taste different,” Caven said.
Caven decided to move into a retail space in order to grow his business after originally selling his chocolate through a private buying club. He said that he believes that chocolate making is the next big trend.
“Chocolate is 15 years behind microbrews, 30 years behind coffee, and it’s 2,000 years behind wine,” Caven said.
Caven said he wants Sanity Chocolates to be a place where people can hang out and see chocolate
being made that’s organic and clean. A driving factor for being organic is Caven’s son’s various food allergies. Caven said he wishes to create an environment similar to that of a coffee shop or tea house.
“That’s probably the biggest drive. Space to make things that kids like my own can enjoy without risk from the additional ingredients,” Caven said.
His business has become a family affair: His wife Sarah wraps the chocolate and designed the logo and packaging. After having an abundance of chocolate laying around the house, it was her idea to start selling it.
“This wasn’t her hobby, this wasn’t her baby, but she’s been a good sport about picking up a lot of the slack, Caven said.
The name Sanity Chocolate and the character on the business's logo comes from a stick figure first drawn with chalk on the sidewalk by his son at age three. Sanity is depicted running around with his hair on fire. Caven and his wife thought it would be a good fit for the business and helped inspire the shop's slogan “Sanity Chocolate: For when you’ve lost yours.”
Caven’s son, now age seven, is excited to be a part of the family business. But his son has said some of his father’s chocolate is too good to sell, claiming that it’s a secret family recipe.
“He’s really excited to get to be a part of the family chocolate business,” Caven said. “Today while we were marking up the floor he told me that he was going to be ready to take over the family business when my back was too sore to lift the bags anymore.”
Caven’s co-workers at the fire station are surprised he has the time to run a chocolate business, but he isn’t the only firefighter in the area to own a business.
“Firefighters have a long history of having side jobs. It’s not uncommon. In our organization, we have a chocolate maker, a coffee roaster and a brewer,” Caven said.
Caven has collaborated with the brewer who owns Old 99 Brewing Co. in Roseburg to create a chocolate coconut milk stout. He has also worked with the coffee roaster at Playhouse Coffee Roasting in Eugene on such creations as the cracked coffee and latte chocolate bars.
“That’s probably the fun part about it, you can experiment with left overs and different products. And generally, your experiment is pretty tasty, you can almost never go wrong,” Caven said.
Cottage Grove residents can experience Caven’s chocolate for yourselves when Sanity Chocolate, located at 1280 E Main St., opens this August.
“We are excited to share chocolate with Cottage Grove,” Caven said.