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Interview: Dr. Kristy Leissle, Cocoa Researcher & Scholar

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“The reality here [in Ghana] is that cocoa is kind of it… Cocoa is part of the national identity here.”

-Dr. Kristy Leissle, Cocoa Researcher & Scholar

With 15 years of cocoa research in West Africa under her belt, Dr. Kristy Leissle is well-poised to speak on the topic of its future. African farmers grow over two-thirds of the world’s cocoa supply, making the African continent the deciding factor in chocolate’s future. With all the hype and questions around the potential extinction of chocolate, it makes sense to get as close to the source as possible: cocoa farmers (or at least someone who’s talked to thousands of them).

So what do farmers actually need from chocolate makers, and in turn, chocolate consumers, to keep growing cocoa? From her office in Accra, Ghana, we dive into global warming, power dynamics in cocoa, and fine flavor cacao in Africa. I hope you enjoy listening to our conversation as much as I enjoyed having it.

Note that the idea of the end of chocolate as we know it was the focus of my interview with Kristy with the end product being this podcast episode titled Is Chocolate Going Extinct?

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A post shared by Kristy Leissle (@docofchoc) on

Dr. Leissle selling her book at an event in Accra, Ghana

Topics We Cover

  • Kristy’s background in Africa and in researching the cocoa industry
  • the craft chocolate industry in Ghana, then and now
  • common narratives which can pigeonhole the African continent
  • a primer on the power dynamics in the African cocoa industry
  • fine flavor vs. bulk cocoa, and the impact of craft chocolate on the West African cocoa industry
  • a brief history of cocoa in Africa
  • atmosphere & experience on a cocoa farm
  • prices farmers need to earn a living wage from growing cocoa
  • cocoa futures as a representation of power in the cocoa industry

Connect With Dr. Liessle

Dr. Leissle’s Blog.

Dr. Leissle on Instagram

Buy Dr. Leissle’s Book, COCOA

Connect With Chocolate On The Road

On Instagram: @chocolateontheroad

On Facebook: @chocolateontheroad

Show music is Roadtrip by Phil Reavis, and our transition music is We’re Gonna Be Around by People Like Us & Sweet Dreams by Lobo Loco.

To listen to the previous episode, click here.

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