What does chocolate have to do with rainforests and conservation?

Chocolate is made from the processing of cocoa beans, which are the seeds of the cacao fruit that grows on the theobroma cacao tree. The cacao tree is native to the tropics. It grows between 20 degrees north and south of the equator. The tree and its fruit, the seeds of which become cocoa beans, are delicate and require the proper shade, moisture, and soil quality provided by rainforest plants. Without this healthy environment the tree and its fruit cannot survive. Rainforest destruction for field agriculture, cattle pastures, and urban development are amongst the greatest threats to rainforest, and therefore cacao survival. The cacao tree’s ideal climate is within tree canopy and therefore cacao production is an ideal practice for sustainable agroforestry. You see - If you love chocolate… well, you better love the rainforest.

Is your chocolate certified organic?

Currently none of our cacao sources are certified organic. There are several reasons for this. First, much of the cacao in the northern Amazon region of Brazil is organic, but the farms do not carry certification because of their remote location, which makes agricultural certifications even more expensive to farmers than they already are. Second, even if cacao is grown organically on a plantation, it may not be able to receive USDA organic certification because other crops in the area may have had certain fertilizers and pesticides applied to them. Finally, the cacao industry in northeastern Brazil (the country’s main cacao producing region) is in the midst of recovery from a fungal infestation called Witches Broom that devastated its cacao production during the 1980’s and 90’s. Most farms in this region use fertilizers and some pesticides that preclude their participation in the program.

Is your chocolate certified Fair Trade?

We do better than that, we source our cocoa beans Direct Trade and pay premiums that exceed those of Fair Trade by an average of 15 times! Direct Trade means that we establish relationships with all farms from whom we purchase, we use our own criteria to judge the quality of the operations in terms of labor and environmental practices, and we deposit our payments directly into the bank accounts of our farms, without any middle men to take a cut.

Why is your chocolate and that of other craft chocolate makers so much more expensive than chocolate found in most supermarkets?

Craft chocolate makers typically use fine cacao, which requires much more careful and intensive cultivation, farm maintenance, land management, selection, fermentation, and drying practices. Most chocolate is made from commodity grade cacao, which includes all the rotting and low grade beans whose poor flavor is masked by lots of sugar and other additives. Fine cacao is often times at least twice as expensive as commodity grade cacao. Further, craft chocolate makers use other higher quality materials as well, such as cane sugar, high quality inclusions such as vanilla, coffee, and fruit, as well as high-end packaging. Finally, and probably most significantly, craft chocolate makers actually make their own chocolate. They have small hands-on chocolate making operations with lots of employees. Most brands found at supermarkets do not make their own chocolate. Instead, they outsource production to huge co-packers and mass-manufacturing facilities. These companies are effectively marketing firms that never touch a drop of chocolate from the time the beans arrive at a processing facility to the time it arrives on store shelves. Think of those economies of scale! At those low prices you sacrifice a lot of quality.

Do you ship internationally?

We are currently working on finding the best manner to ship internationally. Chocolate logistics are tricky given that chocolate is best transported in a cool and dry environment. Please send us a note if you would like to be notified once we are able to ship internationally.

How can I best pick up on the subtle differences in your bars?

When you taste a chocolate bar it is important to limit your distractions. Chocolate begins to melt when it hits your palate so we recommend chewing only a couple of times and then allowing the chocolate to melt on your mouth. Feel the texture; determine if it is fruity, nutty, roasted, earthy or floral and then see if you can pick out the specifics. What are the beginning notes vs. the middle or end notes? How sweet or bitter, acidic or astringent is the chocolate? What do you prefer about one bar over another? And as always, practice makes perfect! If you are interested in experiencing a professional chocolate tasting, please signup for our newsletter or check our blog to learn about our upcoming tasting and pairing classes.

What is the difference between “Chocolate Maker” and “Chocolatier”?

At Harper Macaw, we define Chocolate Maker as the company that purchases cocoa beans and transforms it into chocolate. Chocolatiers are those who purchase our chocolate and transform it into wonderful creations such as truffles and bonbons. Chocolate makers bring out the natural flavors of the cocoa beans through various processes and at Harper Macaw, we believe chocolate is its purest form is an artistic expression of nature. Chocolatiers continue this flavor journey by exploring other unique flavors and combinations in their confectionery creations.

What is the difference between “cacao” and “cocoa”?

Botanically, the term “cacao” refers to the tree and its fruits (pods and seeds). Cocoa describes the bulk commercial dried fermented beans, as well as the powder produced from the beans. Source: Chocolate, Cocoa, and Confectionery Bernard W. Minifie

How should I store my chocolate?

Store chocolate bars between about 60 and 65°F (about 16 – 18°C). Heat and/or direct sunlight can slowly deteriorate chocolate’s aroma, flavor and texture. Ideally, the relative humidity should be below 50%. Excess moisture can condense on the bar and draw out the sugar onto the surface, causing unsightly bloom (harmless but disturbs the silky texture of fine chocolate). Last, avoid storing chocolate near strong odors like coffee or garlic because chocolate absorbs strong odors like a sponge. Consider a cool closet, dry basement or wine cooler to hide your treasures.

Are your products Vegan/ Kosher/ Gluten Free?

All of our plain chocolate bars and discs are vegan, with the exception of our milk chocolates, which contain milk. A kosher food is one that has been certified by a rabbinical authority as compliant with Jewish dietary laws. Our cocoa beans have not been certified kosher by a rabbinical authority, so our products are not certified kosher. All of our plain chocolate bars and discs are gluten-free. Check the packaging of any product for specific ingredients.

How does my purchase help conservation efforts in the Atlantic Rainforest?

Every Harper Macaw product restores and protects deforested or threatened rainforest in northeast Brazil. On average, one chocolate bar adds 30 square feet of land to Reserva Serra Bonita, a private natural heritage preserve in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest that is managed under the stewardship of Instituto Uiraçu.

Why do you portray different animals on your packaging?

We have picked animals which represent the biodiversity in Brazil’s rich Amazon and Atlantic Rainforests and which appear on the IUCN Red List Category (http://www.iucnredlist.org/technical-documents/categories-and-criteria). Showcasing them in our packaging is a simple form to raise awareness of threats to faunal biodiversity in the regions we source from. The Golden Headed Lion Tamarin is considered one of the world’s most endangered mammals and is considered a cultural symbol of Brazilian biodiversity. The Blue Hyacinth Macaw is considered an endangered species, along with many other of its macaw cousins. The beautiful Panthera Onca Jaguar is a species listed as near threatened. As for the brightly colorful Poison Dart Frog, 25% of its 200 species are endangered or threatened. The common denominator to each of their biodiversity threats is habitat loss.

What do you do with your husks’ residues?

We donate our cocoa shells to Eco City Farms (http://www.ecoffshoots.org/), a wonderful farming and educational project in Maryland.

How do you practice sustainability at Harper Macaw?

Sustainability is embedded in the DNA of our company. We are in the process of flushing out our Sustainability Matrix and will make it available to our customers in the next couple of months. For now, here is a simplified sneak peek at what we are up to:

  • Adherence to the B-Corporation Guidelines and projected application date for B-Certification;
  • Partnership with ECO City Farms to donate all of our cocoa shell;
  • Project for move towards self-supplied sustainable (solar) energy;
  • Strict policy regarding packaging and printing suppliers; Waste management program.
  • We would love to hear about practices that matter most to you. Please send us a note telling us ways in which we can improve and become a best place to work and a best place to do business.


    Can I recycle or compost your packaging?

    Yes! You can recycle our chocolate paper boxes as well as our shopping bags. You can also compost our foil and our bulk pouches. The interior foil wrapping our chocolate bars is made of wood pulp and is biodegradable and compostable. The compostable films used to manufacture the silver bags are made from a metallized material that is coated with aluminum which blocks light and increases the barrier properties of the film structure. Aluminum, a common element, in the extremely small quantities of the film coating is considered an inert substance as it goes back into the soil during home composting of the packaging materials. This allows the compostable bags to meet the ASTM 6400 standards for compostable packaging and Europe's Home Composting standards.

    What does direct traded mean to your company?

    Many food businesses make this claim, so here we explain exactly what we mean by directly traded. We source cocoa beans directly from individual farms or cooperatives in the Brazilian states of Bahia and Pará. We physically visit the farms. We meet and speak with both administrators and farmers. We ask many many questions - from “what is the genetic variety of your cacau?” to “what percentage of your land is kept as rainforest preserve?” to “how much do you pay workers?” We observe their fermentation and drying techniques and technology, coordinating shipping logistics all the way from their farm to our factory, and transferring international payments directly to their bank accounts. Further, we are working to partner with Ima Flora, an organization which conducts farm assessments to build specific programs to improve the sustainability of cacao farms.

    If I am interested in carrying your products, what should I do?

    That is great! Please send your request to orders@harpermacaw.com, or fill out the wholesale form on the website.

    Can Harper Macaw create private labels?

    Yes! We can create private labels for mini and regular sized bars. Please email us at orders@harpermacaw.com to discuss further.

    Are you hiring?

    Thanks for your interest! We don't currently have any positions available but we're always on the lookout for great people. Feel free to send us your resume.