As Julie McLean notes on her website for Sibu Sura Chocolates, “We began our journey in 2007 in Virginia, and are now located in the quaint town of Myersville, Maryland.” That journey, which took her to the cocoa-growing farms of northern Peru to find a single-origin supplier of beans, has catapulted her into a very select group: an artisan bean-to-bar chocolatier.
In fact, Sibu Sura Chocolates is the first premium, handcrafted bean-to-bar producer in the Maryland and Virginia area. Having worked for government and criminal justice agencies, think tanks, consulting firms, intelligence analytics firms, and as a government contractor, McLean’s previous experience was more top-brain than tactile.
With a B.A. in political science, a master’s in administration of justice as well as having worked on her doctorate and studied law, McLean wound up operating her own consulting business “for many, many years prior to going into chocolate.”
Thanks to an investor, a childhood friend, the opportunity to transform her career from being a “wonk” into a “Wonka,” proved too hard to resist. The self-professed “chocolate freak” wanted to prove she could make a better chocolate than what was currently available.
Adamant about establishing her own brand using the very best of beans, processed in-house, McLean sampled hundreds of beans from various origins. She settled on a bean grown in northern Peru, which delivered a fruity and rich taste. Insistent on establishing a direct contact with her future supplier, she eventually found a small farm that met her expectations for flavor and exporting experience.
Today, McLean offers a broad range of product, beginning with her Funky Bars that feature interesting flavor combinations, such as ancho-chili and hops n’ cinnamon to solid milk, dark and white chocolate bars. Truffles are in the works as is selling her select Peruvian chocolate to other chocolatiers.
What did you think you would be when you grew up?
An entrepreneur/business owner.
Name one of your favorite movies.
Home for the Holidays, Wizard of Oz, Taken, The Departed, Mystic River andBlood Diamond to name just a few of many favorites! I am a movie buff!
Describe your perfect dream vacation.
Definitely a tropical island that has turquoise waters, pristine beaches, coral reefs, great local food, and cool shopping places. Bungalow or water villa with direct access to the water from the villa so I can swim at any time is a must!
What book are you currently reading?
The International Cocoa Trade by Robin Dand and Red River Prosecutor: True Cases of Oklahoma Crime by The Honorable Kenneth D. Bacon.
Aside from a family member, with whom would you most want to be stranded on a deserted island?
Hmmm. Probably the pirate himself, Johnny Depp.
What is your pet peeve?
Driving slow in the fast lane, movie talkers, putting others down…automated calls, telemarketers, when people say that they are going to do something and don’t follow-through.
I’d give anything to meet…
I would never “give anything” to meet a person, however, it would certainly be delightful to meet any of the following: Johnny Depp, Oprah, Michael J. Fox…Dalai Lama, the Pope, Bono.
The best piece of advice I’ve received:
Carpe diemor “seize the day,” as well as “To Thine Own Self Be True.”
What excites you most about your job?
Traveling overseas to bean plantations and hand-selecting the beans that we use to make our chocolate... taking raw cacao beans and producing delectable chocolate from those beans…creating new recipes and fusions…but, most exciting and rewarding is witnessing the happy and delighted faces of people eating our chocolate products!