Cocoa events – US tour starts soon

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.

Cocoa and chocolate ready for my book launch at the Chocolate Museum

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.

Old Dining Hall, Teddy Hall, all set up for my Cocoa book event

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.

Signing copies of Cocoa in the Norrington Room at Blackwell’s in Oxford


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.


With a mountain of cocoa beans at an Amsterdam warehouse

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

US launch!
7 March, 7pm

University Bookstore
4326 University Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105
with Divine Chocolate & Guittard Chocolate tastings

8 March, 6:30pm
Omnivore Books on Food
3885a Cesar Chavez Street
San Francisco, CA 94131
with Guittard Chocolate tasting

9 March, 7pm

The Chocolate Garage
Register here for this event
with Dandelion Chocolate tasting

12 March, 7:30pm

Powell’s Books on Hawthorne
3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, OR 97214
with Dandelion Chocolate tasting

13 March, 7pm
A Cappella Books
208 Haralson Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30307
with Divine Chocolate tasting

14 March, 6pm
(following regional FCIA meeting)
108 Oak Street, Suite B
Roswell, Georgia 30075
with chocolate tastings

15 March, 7pm
Taza Chocolate
561 Windsor Street
Somerville MA 02143

A very speedy recovery to Trident Booksellers

18 March, 4pm

Word Bookstore
126 Franklin Street
Brooklyn, NY 11222
with Divine Chocolate tasting


Cocoa book launch! UK & US events

cocoa cover

Some time back, I made the decision to put my blog and some other regular writing on hiatus while I worked on another project that was important to me: Cocoa, my book on the geopolitics of the cocoa and chocolate industries, for the Polity “Resources” series. It took me two full years to go from proposal to publication—a gratifying process, and one that required nearly all of my professional energy and dedication.

And now … voila! Cocoa will be released in just a few days in the UK, on February 2, and in the US on March 9. If you would like to pre-order, please take advantage of the 50% discount generously made available by Polity: enter code PY928 at checkout when ordering directly from Wiley.

One of the nicest parts about finishing Cocoa is, of course, that I can now share it with audiences. Below is a list of author events that I have upcoming in the UK and US. I will add further events soon for Accra, where I am relocating shortly from Hertfordshire. Later in 2018, I will have additional events in the US and UK.

I hope to see you at an event soon. Please note that while not all tastings are noted here, there WILL be chocolate all events!

1 February, 7pm: Launch event!
Chocolate Museum, London
in partnership with Divine Chocolate

6 February, 6:30pm
St. Edmund Hall, Oxford University, Oxford
with a tasting of Divine Chocolate

7 March, 7pm
University Bookstore, Seattle

8 March, 6:30pm
Omnivore Books on Food, San Francisco

9 March, 6pm
The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto

12 March, 7:30pm
Powell’s, Portland

15 March, 7pm
Trident Booksellers, Boston
in partnership with Taza Chocolate

March 18, time TB
Word Bookstore, Brooklyn

A month and more of chocolate


Somehow, even though Valentine’s Day is just one chocolate-focused day in the year, the number of “chocolate engagements” (so to speak) around that holiday seems to reproduce and multiply to fill a whole month or more. This year was no exception, and I spent February and indeed March very busy with chocolate.

Everything was a highlight! My dear friend and chocolate colleague, Bill Fredericks, also known as Chocolate Man, and I were invited back to give a second talk and tasting event for The Whole U. The Whole U is UW’s initiative to “foster community, promote holistic wellness, and share the great perks available to UW faculty and staff,” which I guess makes Bill and me a “great perk!”


Photos courtesy of Quinn Russell Brown, The Whole U

Last year, we began our talk for The Whole U in the Hub on Seattle campus. We had just reached the chocolate tasting portion when the fire alarm went off! Bill and I looked at each other incredulously, and then everyone leapt up to grab all the chocolate and file out of the building. With our hundred or so attendees, we gathered outside in the rain, everyone sheltering their small paper cups full of chocolate from getting soaked. It was comical to stand there in the downpour, with people crowding around us to ask which chocolate was which, and what flavor notes they could expect from each. Eventually, we were allowed back inside to gather up our things, and learned that the alarm had been set off by a burnt bag of popcorn in a microwave . . .

Photo courtesy of Quinn Russell Brown, The Whole U

This year, we returned, triumphant, to complete the whole talk and tasting with no building evacuation. It was a very enjoyable event!

I returned to Seattle campus the following week to give another talk, this time solo, for the UW Libraries InForum series. I had been truly delighted to receive an invitation to present to this regular gathering of UW librarians. I have been part of UW, as a grad student and as faculty, since 2001. Over nearly sixteen years, the UW library system has felt like nothing so much as a friend—both the vast collection of books (which I love), and the talented, generous librarians themselves. It has been a great source of comfort to me over the years to know that literally any piece of information I wanted, for research or even leisure reading, I could find at UW libraries. I certainly would not have accomplished the research and scholarship that I have without them, so it was a real pleasure to give back in even a small way and host a research talk for the librarians group.

My event, “From Tree to Taste: A Journey from Cocoa to Chocolate,” included a tasting component. I must once again laud the librarians who attended for their diligence in sorting the “data” that I provided on their plates, and for their excellent forbearance as I made them wait to taste that “data,” as I explicated the many features of the chocolate trade.

In addition to the talks, I also appeared on two NPR affiliate radio broadcasts. I always enjoy doing radio interviews, and I particularly appreciated the insightful questions of both my recent interviewers. For KUOW’s Local Wonder program, I spoke with Ruby de Luna to answer the listener question, “Why does Seattle have such a large local chocolate industry?” For KCUR, of Kansas City, MO, I appeared on Suzanne Hogan’s segment, “For a Missouri ‘bean to bar’ chocolate maker, it’s not just about the candy.

In addition to my book manuscript work, I had two other writing opportunities around Valentine’s Day. As I wrote in my last post, it was my great pleasure to contribute a guest post for San Francisco’s Dandelion Chocolate blog. The tireless and talented Molly Gore solicited and brilliantly edited my post, for which I am so grateful. “Why I teach my students about chocolate” is about my pioneering UW Bothell class—the first university class in the country devoted entirely to chocolate.

I also collaborated with Curtis Vreeland, confectionary industry expert and principal of Vreeland & Associates, to write an article on “artisanry” in the craft chocolate industry, which is due out shortly. I look forward to sharing that piece just as soon as it is published.

And then, after all that, I went on holiday! I was very glad to have time with my family in New York and also with my boyfriend’s family in South Africa. I arrived back in the US on Monday, and dove straight back into chocolate work. From San Francisco airport, I drove up to Moshin Vineyards in Sonoma County, where I hosted an absolutely delightful wine and chocolate pairing event. Somehow the jet lag had not yet hit after 36+ straight hours of travel from Cape Town, and it was a real pleasure to talk and taste chocolate (including Dandelion Madagascar, Dick Taylor Madagascar, and Trader Joe’s Ecuador) with the guests.

The pairing event kicked off my week here in Sonoma, as writer-in-residence at Moshin Vineyards. My grateful thanks to Marcy Gordon and Writing Between the Vines for supporting this extremely productive, rejuvenating time here at the vineyard. I have been hard at work on a processing chapter for my book Cocoa, for Polity Press. It is further along than I had even hoped it would be. I feel so fortunate to have spent a week focused completely on writing in such a stunning and peaceful environment.

File Apr 01, 8 57 56 AM

Finally, my thanks to Julia Lander for re-integrating me into the world of human conversation yesterday evening, after my week of solitude with words, and the exceptional tasting of Moshin wines! Till next time, happy spring to all.



Dr. Chocolate’s Own News Roundup

This week, my own chocolate news roundup. It’s a busy weekend for US chocolate, on top of other recent chocolate developments for me. I am in San Francisco, for the winter Fine Chocolate Industry Association conference, and all the exciting events that pop up around FCIA time. It’s like an early chocolate spring.

This year, the FCIA weekend is well-timed for my own work. The gathering of makers and industry experts in the Bay Area has given me opportunity to launch research for my new book! I have contracted with Polity Press to write the volume Cocoa, for their fantastic Resources series. I love these books:

There are about ten published titles already, with more in the works (including, now, my own). Each book in the series focuses on one commodity, and gives an accessibly written, yet detailed and contemporary account of the global political economy of that resource. University students use these books widely, but so do general readers who are interested in that particular good. I am, quite frankly, delighted to be author for the Cocoa volume, and have dived straight into the work.

Already, people with deep knowledge of the cocoa and chocolate industries have generously given of their time, which has been such a motivating start to the book-writing process. I’ve been interviewing practically from the moment I stepped off the plane here in San Francisco, and can see chapters coming into clearer focus as a result.

I’m also giving my own talks this weekend, and began yesterday evening with an event at The Chocolate Garage. I’ve known the Garage founder, Sunita de Tourreil, for some years now, and have always wanted to do an event at her unique chocolate space in Palo Alto. As Sunita describes it, “The Chocolate Garage is both an idea or a place. The idea is that you can shape the future by choosing what you love.”

The place is an actual garage, near to downtown Palo Alto, and it’s filled with the selection of chocolate bars that Sunita curates, very carefully, which meet her high and thoughtful benchmarks for both flavor and ethics. While currently open on Saturday mornings to anyone who wants to come by and check out the selection, The Chocolate Garage mainly operates on a membership model. Sunita has fostered a community of people who come together around a shared motivation to pursue, in all possible meanings of the term, better chocolate.

Given the high level of “chocolate education” among Garage members, I decided to do a bit of a provocative talk around the imagery used to advertise chocolate, which mostly appears on bar wrappers. It was a full house, and I am so appreciative to every Garage member who stayed for two full hours (or more!) to engage in discussion of issues that are very close to my heart. Thank you to Sunita for hosting me, and to all the very thoughtful chocolate lovers who made the evening an educational one for me too.

Today, I have the pleasure of observing the Cacao Grader Intensive workshop, of the recently launched Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute. Institute founders Carla Martin (Harvard University) and Colin Gasko (Rogue Chocolatier) are on hand, leading attendees through tasting methods and more, as are Jamin Haddox (Certified Coffee Q Grader) and Chloe Doutre-Roussel (Chloe Chocolat). More on this to come. For now, it’s tremendously exciting to see a room full of people focusing with studiousness and care on the art and science of tasting. Before my eyes, the FCCI through its Grader Intensive is expanding the horizons of how we evaluate and appreciate cocoa and chocolate.

Up next tomorrow: the Fine Chocolate Industry Association day of events. I am very much looking forward to my Table Talk on the meaning of the word “artisan” in the chocolate industry today, based on my recent research. And then the Fancy Food show, along with more chocolate events, research, presenting, interviewing, and writing as the weekend unfolds. If you haven’t been to an east coast or west coast FCIA weekend, I highly recommend it. It’s one of the best gatherings of chocolate nerds around!