I have been having a fantastic time here in the UK and Europe promoting Cocoa, my new book on geopolitics and more. It has been a full month, with an event every week.
On February 1, I had my book launch in London at the Chocolate Museum. There was a great turnout, which always feels good, and I was honored to have remarks by Sophi Tranchell, Managing Director at Divine Chocolate, who has known me as a researcher since my first fieldwork in Ghana. Tomas and Maria at the Chocolate Museum hosted me with real warmth and enthusiasm for chocolate education, and Erik Houlihan-Jong was a superstar for leading a tasting of Divine chocolate.
Next up was an event at St. Edmund Hall, my old college at Oxford. I gave a talk about Cocoa and led a chocolate tasting in the Old Dining Hall, where I had attended many events as a student. It was an honor and a pleasure to be back at the Hall, hosting an event of my own.
The following week, I returned to Oxford to give a talk at the Conservation & Development brown-bag lunch series at the School of Geography and the Environment, at the invitation of Alex Morel, Connie McDermott, and Mark Hirons. I decided to present my very early thinking about my next project, on chocolate marketing, and was grateful for the lively and thought-provoking discussion that followed. I also took the opportunity after the brown bag to walk over to Blackwell’s bookstore and sign copies of Cocoa. It was a life highlight! As a student at Oxford, I had spent hours in the vast Norrington Room downstairs at Blackwells, browsing the shelves. I promised myself all those years ago that one day *I* would have a book on a shelf in the Norrington Room, and it was very moving to realize that dream.
After that, I packed my bags for a few days in Amsterdam at the Chocoa conference. On Friday, I spoke on a talk-show style panel about my work with Twin & Twin Trading, helping to link Gola Rainforest cocoa producer organizations with specialty markets. Earlier in the week, I had thoroughly enjoyed a tour of the Amsterdam port, largest in the world for cocoa, and one of the enormous warehouses. We saw no less than 3000 MT of cocoa piled up into a mountain and of course I waded through. When I got back to my guesthouse that night and took off my boots, so many beans rolled out onto the floor! Though I have long studied the commodity trade, my firsthand experience with cocoa trading and chocolate manufacture is typically in the specialty segment, which operates on a relatively small scale. It was an eye-opener to witness the scale of the bulk bean industry up close.
And now I am back in Hertfordshire, packing up the house in preparation for my move to Ghana. All our possessions will set sail on a cargo ship in just a week, but before I follow my belongings (and partner!) to Accra, I will have a few weeks in the US to promote Cocoa on the west and east coasts. If you are in any of the cities below, I certainly hope to see you there.
Upcoming US events for Cocoa
14 March, 6pm (following regional FCIA meeting)
108 Oak Street, Suite B
Roswell, Georgia 30075
with chocolate tastings
BOSTON – NEW VENUE!
15 March, 7pm
561 Windsor Street
Somerville MA 02143