50 States Collaboration – Washington DC / Harper Macaw & Chocotenango

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.:

Undone Chocolate

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!

Chocolate Q or Q Chocolate…does translation matter?

Sometimes it takes a village! The quest to locate a chocolate bar from a company that starts with the letter “Q” for the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project has been daunting. For a while, I thought that it was an impossible mission. Over the last nine months, I’ve been very fortunate to find kindred spirits and genuinely supportive camaraderie within the chocolate community! Just last week, Sophia from Projet Chocolat generously overnighted me a bar from her stash in the nick of time to ensure that this letter of the alphabet would be covered!

So, a few days ago, at the beginning of “Q” week, I excitedly pulled the bar from my wine fridge storage & started my Monday morning routine. The filtered light was perfect for taking pictures of the packaging. There I was happily taking photos, getting on the internet to locate the company’s website + other articles that I could use to further research their backstory and then…WAIT a minute…am I seeing things correctly? Both the company URL and their Instagram account referred to the company name as “Chocolate Q” instead of “Q Chocolate.” I immediate sent my boyfriend a couple of panicked text messages. He tried to assure me that it’s just the translation from Portuguese to English…I wasn’t convinced. Maybe I’m the only one that’s really concerned (“obsessed” might be the better word) with strict adherence to the alphabet. In my mind, this was “Naive Chocolate” vs. “Chocolate Naive” all over again…so it was with a heavy heart that I had to return this bar to wine fridge storage until today.

img_4297

Just looking at the copper stamped logo and the Claudio Novaes artwork that graces the outside of the packaging, you can almost feel the shimmering heat and hear the sounds from the fauna that dwell at the Fazenda Leolinda in the Amazonian rainforest in Brazil where the Trinitario and Forasteiro cacao beans are grown. The Aquim family is passionate about chocolate and has a very hands-on approach to all aspects of “the Q process.”

img_4321

Despite Brazil being one of the top growers of cacao, there was a time when Brazilian chocolates were not note-worthy, since local tastes tended toward mass-produced chocolates. Since 2011, the Aquims’ goal has been to preserve the true taste of cacao (their tagline translates to “chocolate in its essence”), so their bars are made with just 3 ingredients: cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and a pinch of sugar. The Q Collection includes 6 dark chocolate bars of successively intense cacao content, starting with 55% and increasing by increments of 5% to 85% (interestingly, 70% is not one of the percentages offered).

img_4224

In addition to the chocolate itself, I received a bar-sized piece of wood imprinted with the phrase that translates roughly to “sublime and revealing experience.” I’m not quite sure of the board’s true purpose, since I certainly wouldn’t want to get it dirty with chocolate stains! Nevertheless, I’m sure that it helped keep the bar intact during shipping between Nashville, TN and Southern California.

The simple design of the outer packaging has a notch to help keep the box closed after being opened.

img_4299

img_4300

Once you open the outer cardboard packaging, you see the bar wrapped in a sealed shiny gold foil pouch. Since the bar is slightly smaller than the outer packaging, I wonder if this contributed to the blemishes and chocolate “dust” that appeared on the unwrapped chocolate bar.

img_4306

This bar may have been my first encounter with Brazilian chocolate. Upon opening the foil wrapping, the aroma of olives was surprising. The bar’s mold is comprised of several rectangle sizes – all the better to choose how much you want to enjoy in a given sitting. While there was a medium to dull snap to the bar, I was surprised to see some “striation”: part of the piece looked smooth, then there was a dividing line and then the rest of the piece looked a little gritty.

img_4309

img_4318

The visual textural appearance seemed to vary a bit from piece to piece, yet this did not affect the taste; each morsel was smooth, creamy and melted relatively quickly.

img_4311

img_4316

What started off as a bitter taste (earthy/woody/leathery), changed to fruity with hints of peppercorns. After trying the 65% bar, this makes me curious to try the other percentages as well.

Honestly, I’m still not clear if the company name is “Q Chocolate” or “Chocolate Q.” Regardless, this has definitely been a revelatory experience, just like the wooden board predicted.

To learn more about the various chocolates available + exclusive collections, check out: http://chocolateq.com/