We eat it while waiting within the grocery line, we mold it into different circus-like designs, and even spread it across the widest part of a plate knowing that it will be impossible to eat. My question to all those chocoholics out there in the world, “Do you know where this chocolate is coming from?” During my initial week working with Harper Macaw, I had the opportunity to join co-founder Colin Hartman on one of my very first tours, which soon, with a bit of practice I would be hosting for the company. “Imagine yourself standing within a Brazilian rainforest surrounded by cacao trees all around you with large football-shaped pods,” spoke co-founder Colin Hartman while I adorned a disposable hairnet. As we were guided throughout the wondrous chocolate factory on Bladensburg Road, I could not be more impressed to have this gem located within the District of Columbia. The chocolate factory was perfumed with different scents building with each room. The space was home to a variety of machinery, each immaculately sanitary as if they were hospital tools. In describing the overall atmosphere of the facility, it was as warm as the chocolate confections or the velvety smooth taste of the hot chocolate the factory sold prior to the several tours it hosts on a Saturday afternoon.
As a young chef, one of the many products I have always enjoyed working with was chocolate and at Harper Macaw I was finally able to sink my teeth into it, literally. After meeting with both Colin and Sarah Hartman, I was excited to join the team and bring together my love for chocolate before joining the Peace Corps in the months ahead with the hopes of impacting the small cacao industry available in the country of Uganda. Despite its small impact on global production, it is one I additionally seek to sink my many teeth into.
My future within chocolate is one I hope will be rich with experience, much like the many flavors of the directly-traded chocolate that is welcomed within Harper Macaw’s chocolate bars, but one with also an environmental and social impact. “West Africa is responsible for 70% of the world’s cocoa production, but the underlying story of chocolate within that area and many other it that it is home to a history of human and environmental exploitation.” It was within that point of the tour that I became an advocate for the responsible selection of cacao, and the importance of exposing this fact to many who indulge in the decadence that is chocolate. There are layers of truth that extend beyond that of a typical mass market chocolate bar, but one that should always question the consumer. Beyond its silver encased wrapping, when reaching for a bar of chocolate at your local grocery store, one should always themselves, “Where exactly is this chocolate from,” a question we won’t ever question on any of Harper Macaw’s chocolate bars.