Harper Macaw

When it comes to dark chocolate, I’m the type who falls into the ‘hate it’ camp. Maybe my taste buds just aren’t sophisticated enough, but I can’t get down with the bitterness I’ve always tasted.

Taking a tour at the Harper Macaw chocolate factory  actually has me rethinking that opinion — and I’m not just saying that because the amount of chocolate given away during the tasting is a pretty decent, not to mention the free samples available on their display case, which you can and will gravitate toward if you geek out over pretty branding like I do. (That ‘BITE ME!’ packaging is too tough to resist).

Pretty packaging aside, I did learn a lot more about chocolate than I had expected. Harper Macaw sources their beans directly from Brazil’s Atlantic and Amazon rainforests, a region where many people make their living off the cacao plant, something co-owner Colin Hartman stressed a lot during the tour. All chocolate is made from beans grown at farms that use sustainable practices, and the company makes sure to purchase directly from the farms to ensure workers are compensated fairly. On top of all that, five percent of each chocolate bar’s sales will be donated to a nonprofit that focuses on bringing back Brazil’s native plants and wildlife by acquiring deforested and threatened land.

So Hartman told us all of that info (the business side of things + the machinery used to make their products), but his wife Sarah — also the owner of Harper Macaw — walked us through the tasting. She allowed us to try Harper Macaw’s four types of bars: dark chocolates at 67, 74 and 77 percent cocoa, and a milk chocolate at 54 percent. Here’s also what I learned from Sara:

  1. Before eating, rub your chocolate. This releases the flavor.
  2. You can actually listen to your chocolate, meaning crack it in half and if it makes a sharp break noise, it’s tempered. (Read more on tempering here).
  3. To fully enjoy the taste, take only two bites. Let the rest melt in your mouth.

You really got the feeling Sarah is really passionate about chocolate and what she does, so I really appreciated that. It’s also nice to know a small business like this has made its home in DC, and that I’ll be able to find that vibrantly pretty packaging at shops around the city.


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