DC’s long anticipated wait for Harper Macaw‘s chocolate factory is over since it officially opened its doors on December 12th. Harper Macaw is DC’s first chocolate factory that sources their cocoa beans from the Brazilian Amazon and Atlantic rainforest. The line to enter the chocolate factory was out the door as people stood in line to get a taste of Harper Macaw’s hot chocolate or mint hot chocolate. Immediately upon entering, the smell of chocolate was in the air, with a vast variety of chocolate bars on display; chocolate cookies, pies and other desserts were being served. When the crowd of people were done sampling chocolate, tours were given. During the tour, there were not any Oompa Loompas or Willy Wonka in sight. Instead, there was a sophisticated array of machinery such as a “conche” that ages the chocolate and a “five roller refinery” used in a European style of chocolate processing that crushes chocolate particles to 20 microns. At the end of the tour, Sarah Hartman (owner of Harper Macaw) threw a tasting party highlighting their chocolate variety and the event provided an informational session on how to properly eat and enjoy your chocolate. Harper Macaw currently has four chocolate bars available with 52, 67, 74, and 77 percent chocolate bars. Two of the bars are single source being either from the Brazilian Amazon or Atlantic rainforest. The other two bars are a unique blend of the two cocoa beans that produce a very deep sophisticated dark chocolate flavor. Sarah mentioned that key notes to taste in her chocolate bars were the “Fruity jamminess and wine in our 67% Dark Blend Bar, raisins in our 77% Amazon Rainforest Bar, toffee, butterscotch and spice notes in our 74% Atlantic Forest Bar, and raspberries, malt and almonds in our 52% Milk Bar.”
With everyone enjoying the vast amount of chocolate surrounding them, Sarah Hartman was more than happy to chat with DCFüd about what it takes to be a chocolate artisan.
What inspired you to start your own chocolate factory?
I’ve had a lifelong love affair with chocolate. While attending boarding school in Switzerland, I fell deeply in love with chocolate, craftsmanship, and the history behind chocolate. Later on, my mother in law gave me a Scharffenberger recipe book – and the chapter that intrigued me the most was the one which talked about the chocolate making process and the power that cacao agriculture has to promote agroforestry. I shared this interest with a good friend, and she encouraged me to go for a one week intensive course on chocolate – after which, there was no going back. It was a matter of months before I knew I wanted to start my own business, but I knew I needed more experience and knowledge. So I started learning everything I could about it from various courses all over the world, and later gaining invaluable experience at Valrhona and Dandelion chocolate.
What is your ideal chocolate for texture? What about for flavor?
My ideal chocolate texture is a chocolate that is smooth, refined, emulsified, and velvety – it unravels itself on your palate as it melts. I absolutely love that chocolate is a food that melts in your mouth – it is one of a kind. I don’t like grittiness nor sandiness in my chocolate, but I fully understand why some people may be attracted to this type of texture.
My favorite flavor profile in chocolate is hands down fruity – I love chocolates crafted with Madagascar, Peruvian or Venezuelan beans.
The artisan chocolate market in the US seems to be growing. We see more and more brands offering single-origin, high-cacao content chocolate. How do you see the Brazilian market changing? How do you see your chocolate being different?
Harper Macaw is the only US craft chocolate maker that sources cocoa beans from Brazil. We hope to enlighten fellow chocolate lovers about the unique flavor, texture, and aroma that Brazilian beans impart on our chocolate and inspire other craft chocolate makers to explore new sources. Our chocolate is different not only because of our unique source of beans, but because of our state of the art chocolate making process. We are one of the few chocolate ventures that use a 5 roll refiner. This ensures that our chocolate has the best texture and smoothest mouth feel.
What are some new flavors that we may expect in the future?
We are working on several new sources for our cocoa beans that will imbue new and exciting flavors to our products. We are currently researching projects in Indonesia and Congo for our next origin bars. We have chosen these specific locations as they are countries which also suffer from large deforestation issues and we want to replicate our conservation model at other origins as well.
How would you describe the flavors that someone eating your chocolate may expect?
Each bar is unique and flavors and perceptions are all in the “mouth” of the beholder. Our flavors are anything but expected.