Cocoa Masterclass in London 2023


We, as chocolate makers and professionals in countries where chocolate is produced, often find that individuals involved in various aspects of the chocolate value chain lack a comprehensive understanding of its entirety. While chocolate makers purchase machines and cocoa beans, they may not possess the broader market knowledge or insights into the origins of cocoa production.


Professionals based in London can sometimes feel physically disconnected from the actual cocoa beans and the realities faced by cocoa farmers. To bridge this gap and provide a more immersive experience, we developed an onboarding package aimed at bringing sensory experiences and contextual understanding to these professionals.


For the first time, Cacao Latitudes introduced its highly sought-after Cacao Sourcing Course within a corporate setting at ECOM HQ in London. This specialized course was tailored specifically for professionals operating in the Sustainability, Trading, Finance, and Logistics sectors within the cocoa value chain.


The Cacao Latitudes team had the privilege of delivering a comprehensive course designed to deepen participants' knowledge of cacao sourcing and offer onboarding training for ECOM staff in the future. The course covered various critical aspects, shedding light on the intricacies and challenges associated with this vital component of our industry, including:


  1. 1. Historical background
  2. 2. Plant management
  3. 3. Post-harvest treatment
  4. 4. Supply chain dynamics
  5. 5. Sensorial analysis
  6. 6. Semi-finished products


The course was facilitated by external consultants Sarah Bharath from Trinidad and Tobago and Kristy Leissle. Dr. Kristy Leissle is a highly respected cocoa and chocolate scholar renowned for her extensive research into the cocoa-chocolate trade across Africa, Europe, and North America, with a particular focus on West Africa.


She is the distinguished author of "Cocoa" and the visionary creator of the "I am a cocoa farmer" series. Dr. Leissle's contributions to the field of cocoa and chocolate extend beyond her written works. She regularly shares her expertise through various publications and is currently working on an exciting new book that explores Africa's pivotal role in the global chocolate industry.


Dr. Leissle's commitment to the cocoa community is further demonstrated by her co-founding of the Cocoapreneurship Institute of Ghana, a non-governmental organization dedicated to supporting cocoa entrepreneurs in West Africa. Her academic background includes previous faculty membership at the University of Washington Bothell, where she continues to maintain an affiliation with the university's African Studies program.


Beyond academia, Dr. Leissle also serves as a Cultural Specialist for National Geographic-Lindblad Expeditions, enriching the understanding of cocoa and chocolate through her expertise. She is an esteemed member of advisory boards for Confectionery News, Zora Chocolate, and the Ghana Cocoa Awards. Dr. Leissle actively conducts research on cocoa and chocolate for private sector companies and non-governmental organizations, further solidifying her role as a leading figure in the field. 



Sarah is a dedicated practitioner in the realm of soil-to-seed cultivation, initially drawn to cacao through her academic pursuits but ultimately finding her true calling amidst the cacao trees and their natural companions in the field. Over the past 24 years, her primary focus has revolved around understanding the cacao plant, its intricate growth system, the conditions necessary for its flourishing, and how post-harvest processing, combined with sensory science, can unveil the hidden depths of cacao.


Sarah Bharath actively collaborates with cacao producers to collaboratively devise solutions for challenges encountered in the field and during processing. Her evolving emphasis is on imparting practical scientific knowledge within the practical context of cacao cultivation and regenerative agricultural systems.


Her enduring partnership with Meridian Cacao Co. based in Oregon allows her to delve into the multifaceted aspects of cacao at the micro-lot level. Simultaneously, she aids them in bringing high-quality cacao to the global market, shining a spotlight on the remarkable efforts undertaken by farmers at the source of this precious commodity.

Participants included key professionals from the finance and logistics sectors of the cocoa value chain, ensuring that the course reached those directly involved in decision-making and supply chain operations.


Throughout the course, participants gained insights into the origins of cocoa in tropical regions and delved into the complexities of sustainable sourcing, with a strong emphasis on responsible practices in cocoa production. The enthusiasm and active engagement of the participants were noteworthy, as their thought-provoking questions and discussions showcased a genuine interest in the subject matter. By sharing our expertise and insights, we successfully imparted valuable knowledge to these stakeholders, empowering them to make informed decisions within their respective roles and fostering a deeper connection to the world of cocoa.


The Sourcing Course at ECOM has reinforced our commitment to educating our sector so that each individual working within the value chain comprehends their role within it.


Stay tuned for further updates and upcoming courses from Cacao Latitudes as we continue to make a positive impact on the world of chocolate!



Article written by Sarah MacCuaig



"The masterclass was a massive eye opener and grew my own knowledge and interest in the subject more than I could have anticipated.


The theoretical and practical lessons woven together with interactivity throughout made learning enjoyable, which was greatly enhanced by each instructor’s passion for the topics presented."

- Brad Moore



"I had a great time learning the history of cocoa, its production life cycle, an informative virtual cocoa farm visit and sampling different chocolate tastes which kept us enthralled. There's so much more about fine chocolate than I ever expected."

- Jitesh Malli 



"The Cocoa Masterclass was a delightful blend of history, production insights, and hands-on experiences. Learning about cocoa's history and production process was fascinating, and getting to see a real cocoa pod and beans up close brought it all to life. A truly educational and engaging experience!"

- Pooja Bhuruth



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