By Katrina Yentch

Mushrooms are a staple of Pacific Northwest culture. It's not uncommon to get invited to a mushroom foraging date in the Tillamook forest, or to see them incorporated into the program of a natural medicine clinic. But adding them to chocolate is something else.

Vehicle Chocolates is a Portland-born pandemic project, combining 1,500 mg of mushroom extract with high-quality cacao for a wellness-oriented chocolate bar. It was started by friends and team members Alissa Friedman, Dave Gurley and Matt Milletto, who, during the onset of COVID-19, found themselves experiencing some level of stress on their primary careers. With extra time on their hands, they took advantage of their combined backgrounds in wellness and coffee sourcing, along with a shared passion for mushrooms.

The business launched last summer and currently has five flavors on the market, all of which incorporate a blend of chaga, red reishi, cordyceps and lion's mane mushrooms. (A line of coffee just launched last week as well.) Although mushroom foraging is huge in the region, some inconsistencies in quality still make it hard to source them for chocolate here, says Milletto, who also owns Water Avenue Coffee.

For that reason, Vehicle's mushroom blend comes from the renowned Real Mushrooms, which sources its zero-grain, USDA organic blend from China—producer of 85% of the world's mushrooms. Mushrooms have a stacked list of benefits, and are rich with antioxidants, proteins and fiber. Vehicle adds additional health-charged ingredients, including bee pollen, turmeric and dandelion extract.

But if Vehicle is a wellness-forward project, then why add chocolate?

"Chocolate is already being mixed with CBD or CBN. It is already a vehicle for health," says Gurley. "We're trying to take the entire health-conscious idea of dark chocolate as something that people know in small amounts has health benefits."

You might think a mushroom-infused chocolate would taste like dirt. But these bars are filled with 66% cacao, with a flavor more akin to European-style chocolate. Vehicle Chocolates in particular add only 4 grams of sugar to every full bar.

"Mushrooms and chocolate are both sacred and ancient foods on this planet," says Friedman. "We wanted the chocolate to be as good for your body as it is for your taste buds."

BUY IT: Vehicles Chocolates are available at New Seasons and vehiclechocolates.com.