The cross-country chocolate swap and collaboration project continues! Sometimes you can get complacent about things that are familiar to you; so, from the start, Lori & I thought it would be fun for each of us to review chocolates from the other’s hometown to get a “fresh perspective” on them. She reviewed three chocolate makers from the Southern California area yesterday, so today I’m writing about two chocolate makers from the Washington, D.C. area.
Harper Macaw Chocolate Makers has been on my “wish list” for a while now, so I’m very grateful to Lori for choosing these 3 bars from the Rainforest Origin series for me. Check out this link from their website to learn more about the Brazilian cacao sources and conservation efforts to turn chocolate into a force for tropical reforestation.
Each of the thick white cardboard boxes is decorated with a brightly colored kaleidoscope imagery featuring a different endangered animal. Additionally, there are thin gold foil stamped & embossed lines accenting the box and these are repeated again on the chocolate bars themselves. One of my favorite gold accents is the company logo, which looks to be a stylized face of a macaw parrot, with plumage framing its beak and eyes.
Each of these chocolate bars was made with just three ingredients: cocoa beans, cane sugar and cocoa butter. Instead of utilizing the perforated “tear strip” on the back panel of the box, I decided to keep the packaging intact by easily lifting the flap from the double stick tape, which could then be used to “re-seal” the envelope-like closure.
Though not pictured, each bar was wrapped in a crimped heat sealed, metallic plastic pouch. Additionally, each bar of chocolate had a dull matte finish with varying degrees of chocolate “dust” marring the surface. I’m surprised that none of the boxes had any tasting notes listed, though the company website does mention the flavor notes there. I didn’t consult the website until just now, so we’ll see how “close” I was able to get during my “unbiased” tastings 😉
First up is the 74% Atlantic Forest / Single Estate Vale do Juliana bar, featuring a Golden Lion Tamarin Monkey.
Removing the bar from the inner packaging, the aroma reminded me of dark roasted coffee.
There was a brittle, dry snap to the bar which revealed some air bubbles and a few unusual white flecks at one section of the tasting morsel (see the upper left corner of the photo below):
Initially, the piece tasted like mocha and then evolved into an earthy flavor during the smooth and even, slow melt. This did not have a creamy mouthfeel and was lightly astringent on the finish. According to the website, the tasting notes are listed as: Toffee, licorice, peppercorn… This one’s a bit of a mystery
Next up is the 77% Amazon Rainforest / Single Estate Tomé Açu bar, featuring poison dart frogs.
This bar had a grassy, hay-like aroma which then transitioned to a dark roasted smell once it had a chance to “breathe” a bit. I’m always fascinated by the “shear pattern” upon creating a tasting morsel.
However, subsequent pieces looked completely different / no “shear”!
This one was the darkest in color and had a sharp snap with an earthy, herbal, almost black licorice flavor. The mouthfeel was more “juicy” than the last bar and also had a smooth, slow, even melt. The website’s tasting notes describe the bar as: Earthy with dried fruit such as raisins
You can also read about Lori’s impressions about this bar here.
Originally I was only going to try two of the three Harper Macaw bars that Lori had sent me, but I just couldn’t resist trying all of them!
Next up is the 75% Atlantic Forest / Single Estate M. Libânio, featuring Agrias claudina butterflies.
Sadly, this bar had the most chocolate “dust” marring the surface.
The aroma reminded me of dried figs and had a brittle, almost hollow sounding snap.
Surprisingly, there were sour, tangy notes to the chocolate and a chalky astringent aftertaste despite the smooth and even, slow melt. The website lists the flavor as: Malt, tart cherries, white fruit
Here is a photo of all three bars side-by-side to show the differences in colors even through the cacao used only varied by a few percentage points. Some of my descriptions were close to the tasting notes, but I still have a long way to go in perfecting my palate!
To learn more about Harper Macaw and see even more colorful packaging, including their political collection, visit their website: https://harpermacaw.com/
But wait, there’s more…I also had the opportunity to taste a bar from Chocotenango! Lori just recently wrote about this company, so check out her blog post to learn more about how they got started.
Cardamom is one of my favorite flavors, so I was thrilled when Lori was able to obtain this 73% Dominican Republic dark chocolate Arabian Nights bar on my behalf!
The royal blue foil doesn’t really go with the cream and green colored outer packaging, but I was fascinated by the way they wrapped the bar on the diagonal, which reminds me of the Japanese Furoshiki technique.
The twelve rectangle bar with a matte finish sustained some damage in transit, possibly because the bar is much more narrow than the outer cardboard sleeve packaging. There was a sharp snap and a creamy, smooth mouthfeel with the occasional crunch from a citrusy cardamom seed.
Overall, I loved the strong green cardamom flavor and aroma! It will be hard not to eat this entire bar within the next few days. To learn more about Chocotenango and see their other flavors, please check out their website: https://www.chocotenango.com/
Remember to follow the Time to Eat Chocolate blog to hear about the next stop in the “50 States” project!
Other chocolate makers in Washington, D.C.:
NOTE: If you know of any other bean-to-bar makers in Washington, D.C. that aren’t mentioned above, please leave a comment or send an email so that we can keep this list as up-to-date as possible!