Melissa Berry

Sweet Relief

WORDS Kailla Coomes  PHOTOGRAPHY Tim Sugden

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Missionary Chocolates started in 2008, when Melissa Berry wanted to make a sweet gift for her mom for Christmas. Now, Missionary Chocolates has been satisfying the sweet tooth of chocolate aficionados for over a decade, with new and innovative products being frequently introduced.

Berry has just released a line of hemp-derived CBD chocolates, a product that took nearly three years to perfect. Inspiration for the line came from her mom, who suffers from chronic Lyme disease. CBD is well-known for its therapeutic use as a non-narcotic pain reliever. Her new CBD chocolate line is called O by Missionary and its initial release has had a very positive reception. 

We sat down with Dr. Berry at her shop (2712 NE Glisan) to talk about Missionary Chocolates, the O by Missionary chocolate line debut, and how she got to where she is today. 

Can you talk a little bit about starting Missionary Chocolates?
Back in 2008 I was a single mom with a one-year-old son nearing the end of my naturopathic medical school training. Before graduating from NUNM (National University of Natural Medicine here in Portland) I began making chocolates truffles that I thought my mom might like. She grew up in California with a father who was a prominent physician, and in the ‘60s and ‘70s See’s Candies were what everyone gave their doctors as thank-you gifts. That was what my mom grew up with and was used to – very sweet and light tasting milk chocolates. Hence the first truffle flavor that I made for the Missionary Chocolates brand, which was the Meyer Lemon Explosion. I was trying to make something for her that met her dietary preferences and personal taste, as she is a nearly life-long vegan, and follows a diet that is strictly gluten-free as she is celiac as well.

How did you come up with the recipe?
I was trying to find something delicious and chocolate to make my mom as a Christmas present. I experimented with batches of truffles made with rice milk, and some with soy milk…then I used coconut milk….and it’s still what I use today. It’s pure, low-allergen, and doesn’t have any artificial additives or a strong coconut taste, which allows the other natural ingredients that we use to make our truffles shine through.

Was making chocolates your master plan all along?
No, none of this was “supposed” to happen. After finishing medical school I was going to go back to my hometown in California and open a practice. While having a child alone during medical school was not my original goal, I have found that often the best things in life are not always our “plan A” – they end up being even better! Having my son Eli is the best thing I have ever done, and starting Missionary Chocolates has proven (after many hard learning years) to be a close second. I thought of this company to be honest as a “plan B”. After graduating I worried a lot about what would happen if I didn’t pass my medical boards the first time, and what I would do to support us. I never considered myself the smartest person in my class, and with a baby I needed to make sure I had a plan B. So I started selling my first chocolates at the Buckman Farmers Market in SE Portland. This was before Eli was even walking, and I studied relentlessly for my boards that whole summer. Thankfully I did pass them the first time, but I’m the kind of person that was always going to have a backup plan. 

And now 11 years later you have a brand-new, exciting product! Can you talk about your new CBD chocolate line?
Over the years I have seen cannabis help lots of people in many different ways, but I knew had to use something in our chocolates that didn’t have any THC in them because I was concerned how it would affect my mom. She was never a smoker and if she experienced any psychological effect from anything that I made for her she didn’t like it. So I did lots of research, talked to everyone in the business that I could, experimented with a myriad of CBD products, and ultimately tested them for years on my mom and other chronic pain patients. I really feel like this is the best thing available right now for pain management because many people like my mom don’t want to get high, and they don’t want anything that will affect their ability to work, drive a car, or function in general. I think it’s filling a much-needed niche in the world.

What kind of CBD do you use? 
It’s a pure organic isolate, and each batch we buy has been tested for pesticides and heavy metals. Ultimately, I have used it for long enough and with enough people to understand it, and to choose the dosage that I did of 25mg of CBD per truffle. That’s why I didn’t launch the line until this year, even though I’ve been making them for several years — I wanted a lot of feedback and for many people to test them for me. A lot of time and research went into choosing the company that we work with, and we evaluated many samples from a variety of different suppliers. It had to be organic, have zero cannabis taste, and to be the best quality I could obtain. The particular blend that we are using seems to be the most helpful one we’ve tried yet for alleviating inflammation and pain for my mom from her Lyme disease – she has systemic joint destruction that is irreversible. We have also had reports of the truffles helping people with better sleep and in reducing their anxiety symptoms, but it’s an individual experience and we always appreciate feedback.

What was the reaction after releasing it? 
People are very excited that we’re making a cannabis-infused edible, one that contains no artificial ingredients, colors, or corn syrup. Customers come into our retail shop and often make a beeline straight to the CBD truffle display. Our new website is just about to go live, and we have a beautiful site just for the O by Missionary CBD line. Everyone seems to know someone that has a chronic medical problem, and more and more people are telling me that they take CBD every day for a variety of reasons. As a naturopathic physician, this is an awesome opportunity for me to feel like I am impacting people in a positive medical way.

Where is the O by Missionary CBD chocolate line available? 
I am very pleased that every single New Seasons Market and their affiliate New Leaf Markets are carrying the entire line, and they will even have special heart boxes for Valentine’s Day. They can be found in their Wellness Departments, including all of their 25 stores spanning Washington State, Oregon and California. 

The wonderful Dragon Tree Spa carries the O by Missionary line at all 3 of their locations, in NW Portland, at the Portland Airport, as well as in Colorado. The restaurants Harlow and Prasad are also excellent places around town to find all of our chocolates, as well as our own retail store on Glisan Street.

Any plans to expand the CBD line even further?
I would like to continue to develop and expand the CBD line for sure. I think it’s one of the most helpful and exciting thing we are making. I’m looking forward to hearing more customer feedback about our CBD line, as we strive to make the best chocolates Portland has to offer. 

Learn more about Missionary Chocolates, O by Missionary, and get the latest about their CBD line at their soon-to-be launched website below. If you’re in the Portland area, stop by their retail shop and sample all of their delicious flavors!

Available at: all New Seasons markets (in OR, WA & CA), The Dragontree Spa (Thurman St OR, PDX Airport and Boulder Colorado locations), Harlow & Prasad.