Entering the burgeoning world of artisanal chocolate with a flourish, Harper Macaw‘s Washington, DC-made bars capture attention with their kaleidoscopic packaging. We were enticed to open the crisp, colorful boxes but ultimately more pleased to savor the complex flavors of cacao—sourced from the rainforests of Brazil—that we found within.
By exploring her love of chocolate, Sarah Müller Hartman of Harper Macaw pays homage to her beloved native Brazil. Culinary school classes led her to reading about the science of chocolate and eventually taking a course in chocolatiering. “I fell in love with chocolate,” says Müller Hartman. “One of the things that caught my attention was the potential for cocoa agroforestry to be a force for good in the rainforest. So instead of mono-cropping and planting one type of crop, it is when you intercrop. You plant a line of rubber trees, then a line of banana trees, and help both financial and environmental outcomes.”
Müller Hartman is from São Paulo and has lived there with her husband Colin Hartman in the past. Co-founding Harper Macaw together, the couple developed direct-trade bars that celebrate the sights, smells and flavors of her home country. “We’ve been able to gain some access and develop a network in a country where they speak Portuguese,” says Colin Hartman. “Sarah being Brazilian has given us the ability to have strong relationships with the farmers.”
Lifting the back tab in the colorful paper boxes, rainforest animals lead the way to the chocolate protected by a compostable foil wrapper. The geometric bird logo and score lines are also printed onto the bar, echoing the package and product design by fellow DCers Design Army. “We wanted to make sure the experience from the outside carried through to the inside,” explains Pum Lefebure of Design Army.
Design Army worked with Harper Macaw to help create a brand identity for their new company that would last the test of time, leaving room for interpretation and potential to create other products. They want evoke their rainforest conservation objectives, where they source cacao, and share information about the endangered species that are native to the rainforests in Brazil. The name, a combination derived from the Harpy eagle and the blue hyacinth macaw in Brazil, became Harper Macaw.
“Design Army really nailed the cross-section of bright tropical imagery with a dreamy fashion look,” says Sarah Müller Hartman. “We want to convey a deep engagement with the rainforest and a colorful sense of vivaciousness and adventure. Many chocolate brand looks are quite serious, which we could very easily have been, due to our rainforest conservation theme, but we wanted to be fun!” Adds Lefebure, “We made it organic in a way, where the color is punchy. When you think of Brazil, it is a colorful country.” They designed a geometric logo and grid structure to juxtapose with the natural imagery, drawing inspiration by researching Brazilian clothing, art, food and masks. The colorful leaves and plants represent the biome. Harper Macaw chose the animals from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and also animals that are a large part of Brazilian culture.
The bars are made with Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa. “We source from two regions in Brazil: the Amazon and the Atlantic Rainforests. They are two of the world’s most biodiverse, yet most threatened biomes,” says Müller Hartman. “The two single estates were what we had imagined from our very early conceptual stages. Our single estate chocolates showcase flavor profiles specific to the region and even down to the farm. The blends represent Brazil as a whole. Brazil is geographically massive, and uniting these two sources into a dark and a milk blend allows us to create complex flavors that combine and play with flavor profiles of different regions within a single origin country.”
Harper Macaw will add a fifth bar to their Brazil series in March and a new series of bars and designs later this spring. Purchase bars and chocolate drops online from their webshop or at local stockists around DC.
First and last images by Cool Hunting; all other images courtesy of Harper Macaw