Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

A sweet weekend: Harvard Square’s Taste of Chocolate Festival returns with free chocolate extravaganza tastings

People+sample+free+chocolate+provided+by+local+businesses+at+the+16th+annual+Harvard+Square+Taste+of+Chocolate+fair%2C+some+waiting+over+an+hour+in+the+cold+to+sample+a+few+morsels+of+chocolate+in+Cambridge%2C+Mass.%2C+on+Saturday%2C+Jan.+27%2C+2024.+%28Amin+S.+Lotfi%2FBeacon+Staff%29
Amin S. Lotfi
People sample free chocolate provided by local businesses at the 16th annual Harvard Square Taste of Chocolate fair, some waiting over an hour in the cold to sample a few morsels of chocolate in Cambridge, Mass., on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (Amin S. Lotfi/Beacon Staff)

Chocolate lovers convened at Brattle Street in Cambridge on Saturday, dressed in warm winter garments and eagerly waiting in line for hours to get their fingers messy with free, chocolate-covered treats from local businesses.

The annual Harvard Square “Taste of Chocolate” Festival was in full swing during the sweet weekend for its 16th year, featuring a three-day chocolate extravaganza to promote and support several Harvard Square restaurants, cafes, shops, and chocolatiers. 

Vendors from businesses including Bridgewater Chocolate, Blackbird Doughnuts, and Painted Burro were lined up in the square, dishing out free, fun-sized chocolatey items from their menus to the overfull crowds of people waiting to fill their entire plates with the desserts. At the end of the line, festival-goers were hunched over stone steps scattered throughout the square, listening to the drumming group Grooversity putting on a show and biting into spoonfuls of their treats.

Photo: Amin S. Lotfi
Drum Band Grooversity plays at the 16th annual Harvard Square Taste of Chocolate Festival in Cambridge, Mass., on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. The group blends traditional Brazilian music like Samba and Axe with Funk, Rock, Jazz and Hip Hop. (Amin S. Lotfi/Beacon Staff)

“I’m a chocolate lover. We all are,” said Samantha Penino, an employee at MIT and one of many festival attendees who decided to spend their free weekend trying free chocolate. 

“When you have free events, you’re gonna get people from all different types of classes that are able to enjoy those things,” Penino said. “Really, the only cost of this is waiting.”

The line was long, up to two and a half hours for some attendees, but any type of waiting game was worth it for the chocolate, Brookline resident Hannah Topczewski said.

Topczewski tried a handful of chocolate sweets, her favorites being a triple chocolate donut with chocolate icing and chocolate sprinkles, chocolate mousse, macarons, and nitrogen ice cream from the business Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream. But, above all, Topczewski appreciated getting to be present at a free event that brought many from the greater Boston area to Harvard Square.

“Any free event is a wonderful way to bring together community,” she said, gesturing to a crowd of people dancing with ice cream in hand. “It’s just fun to see that there are things going on and if you don’t want to be in the house on a Saturday.”

Photo: Frank Chen
A group of local students taste chocolate sandwiches at the Harvard Square Taste of Chocolate Festival in Cambridge, Mass., on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (Frank Chen for The Beacon)

The chocolate festival began 16 years ago as part of the Harvard Square Business Association’s initiative to support local retailers and restaurants during the winter months through its yearly Winter Carnival, said Denise Jillson, executive director of the association. The Winter Carnival kicks off immediately after the new year with the Boston Celtic Music Festival in the square, continuing until the middle of March with signature outdoor events like the chocolate festival and the upcoming chili-tasting contest.

“It’s just a way of bringing people into the square, regardless of the weather,” Jillson said. “It’s vitally important to the economic vitality of our district.”

For other attendees, the festival and its display are reminders of home, both old and new. 

Anu G. said they grew up in London, where free public events filled with music and dancing are frequent. As a current Boston resident, Anu G. said they appreciated the festival’s atmosphere and chocolate selections, even if it meant seeing trademark businesses. 

“I didn’t expect Dunkin Donuts to be here. It seems very generic,” Anu G. said, laughing. “But obviously, we live in Boston, so it’s going to be here.”

Many attendees pointed out that hosting free events for the public is an effective way to bring a feeling of community. For that, Salem resident Carina Debarcelos had one suggestion: more free events.

“I appreciate public events like this. I find it to be a really nice opportunity for people to come all over both local and the greater Boston area,” said Debarcelos, a self-proclaimed chocolate lover. “More communities should definitely do more of [these events] because it brings [people] together, even if it’s something as simple as chocolate.”

Photo: Amin S. Lotfi
Joe Williams, aka DJ Joey FinnZ, plays a mix of Nu Disco dance music as a small crowd dances at the 16th annual Harvard Square Taste of Chocolate Fair in Cambridge, Mass., on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (Amin S. Lotfi/Beacon Staff)
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About the Contributor
Olivia LeDuc, News Editor
Olivia LeDuc (she/her) is a journalism student and assistant editor for the campus coverage of The Beacon’s news section. When she’s not reporting, you can find her crocheting or going on yet another long walk in the city.

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