D.C.’s First Chocolate Factory Opening Next Summer

Sarah Cacao Beans Bahia

There might not be a chocolate river or oompa loompas, but D.C. is getting its first chocolate factory, Concept C, next summer. Founders Sarah Hartman, a São Paulo native and culinary school grad who's worked for Valrhona and San Francisco's Dandelion Chocolate, and her husband Colin Hartman, a Wharton MBA grad who served in the U.S. Marines, plan to specialize in bars made with cocoa beans from Brazil’s Amazon and Atlantic rainforests. Their factory will be located at 3160 Bladensburg Road NE, right next to DC Brau.

Brazilian cocoa beans aren't as prevalent as those from places like Ecuador and Costa Rica, Colin Hartman says, because of a fungal infestation that devastated the cocoa industry several decades ago. With no income, many farmers cut down their cocoa plantations inside the rainforest canopy and converted them into things like cattle pastures.

Colin Cacao Pod BahiaBut the Hartmans hope to use the chocolate industry as a way to help restore the rainforest, which has a symbiotic relationship with cacao trees. On a recent trip to Brazil to visit farms they'd like to source from, the couple stayed at a natural reserve run by an NGO that is trying to raise funds to purchase deforested, unproductive farm land and help bring back the native plants and wildlife. Concept C—the "C" stands for conservation and chocolate—plans to support that mission by donating a yet-to-be-determined portion of its sales to these reserves.

Concept C will make an Atlantic rainforest dark chocolate bar, an Amazon one, and dark and milk "pure Brazilian" chocolates that blend the two. Down the line, they'd like to make bars that incorporate Brazilian fruits like cashew fruit and guava as well as produce bonbons. They also plan to sell cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, and chocolate chips.

While their goal is to distribute all over the country, the Hartmans plan to have a local focus. "We really want to become a strong part of the food industry here and the food movement," Colin Hartman says.

When it opens, the chocolate factory will host tours, tastings, and workshops. Expect classes on chocolate pairings, bonbon-making, and cooking savory dishes with chocolate.

"I'm still working on trying to find a purple suit," Colin Hartman says.

Photos of Sarah Hartman (top) and Colin Hartman courtesy Concept C