I’ve been thinking a lot about the multi-faceted topics of cacao for over twenty years, but more so than usual in the past five months. After eighteen months of no travel at all – and just one trip to a cocoa-producing country (Nigeria) in the first twenty-nine months since lockdowns started here in the US! – I visited three cocoa-producing countries in S America (Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador) within four months.
As a part of those travels I got to see traditional smallholder farming in and very technified farming in the province of Guayas, about an hour’s drive west from Guayaquil. While I did not get a chance to see it in person, Barry Callebaut’s “Farm of the Future” is in the same area.
Not only did I get a chance to see a number of different systems of cocoa farming, I had the good fortune to be able to sit in on a presentation by Dr Francisco Valdez, one of the lead researchers in the archaeological and anthropological work being done in the province of Zamora Chinchipe in southeastern Ecuador, about what they found there.
Coincidentally, shortly after leaving Ecuador I was a guest of Barry Callebaut at their 2nd Generation Chocolate launch – which is both forward-looking while at the same time a reflection of the past, rooted in the realities of the present day. While BC is talking about chocolate, one fundamental talking point is the need to think about cocoa differently from the ways they have been thinking about.
At the same time, fermented alternatives to cocoa have shown up again in recent chocolate news:
In this episode of TheChocolateLife::LIVE I will be exploring what I witnessed, read, and researched and how it may all tie together.
The future of cacao cannot be known, but some aspects of its future may be being determined – and we can see some of what that looks like – and so it makes sense to take a look at some current influences.
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