NW Chocolate Festival: Welcome to the Chocolate Revolution

Cultivators of the craft chocolate movement descended on Seattle in early October for the 6th annual Northwest Chocolate Festival, a convergence of artisan makers showcasing their passions to be enjoyed by industry peers and tasted by an eager public attending by the thousands.

photo (92)One highlight example of the connections and conversations occurring across a wide range of educational offerings was Saturday afternoon’s panel, Welcome to the Chocolate Revolution. Moderated by Dr. Kristy Leissle, University of Washington’s Dr. Chocolate, the panel included voices of cacao producers, chocolate makers, and cocoa retailers: Edmond Brown of The Grenada Chocolate Company, Alex Whitmore of Taza Chocolate, Greg D’Alesandre of Dandelion Chocolate, Sunita de Touriell of The Chocolate Garage, and Gillian Goddard of Sun Eater Organics.

There is no usefulness in secrets: transparency is key! For the last 50-100 years everything in the industry has been secretive. That needs to change and the way to do so is to not have secrets of your own. Now people want more information not less.Greg

Among the joys of his role chocolate sourcing, Greg described having new chocolate makers contacting him, eager to exchange craft knowledge and know how. From this, Dandelion has been pioneering transparency in sourcing, celebrating the origin story of each cacao batch, essentially the essence of the bean, which is in the care of the chocolate makers to not mess up and instead celebrate and let shine through.

Alex spoke of our need to decommodify cocoa, and the work of his company, Taza, creating a Direct Trade model that has been third party certified since 2010, who’s corresponding annual transparency reports are a standout example of efforts that are causing a ripple effect throughout the cocoa trade.

Chocolate is a compelling tool for engaging people around global supply chains and all the hands behind making a bar.Sunita

Sunita and The Chocolate Garage are among the champions working to support makers by bringing craft chocolate alive for end consumers, creating an environment that is beyond just a purchase by incorporating educational tastings to begin transforming our “candy bar culture.” Customers are offered opportunities to crowd fund “future chocolate,” where money is deposited towards future purchase credit and funds flow to artisans making “happy chocolate,” allowing them to bring new bars to life from origins that are moving towards transparent supply chains.

We don’t want a world of indulgence; I want a world where the things I care about can survive. Beans of the past have had a brutal, vicious history.Gillian

Gillian, of Sun Eater Organics, posed some beautiful thoughts and poignant questions. How intimate are we going to give ourselves permission to be with our food and our work? A lot of people have arrived at chocolate by accident. We are here creating a new paradigm of doing this incredible thing together through trade and we need to get intimate in our own food environments.

We typically tell the pleasurable stories of chocolate.Kristy

Most chocolate is desperately unhappy and we don’t want to talk about it.Sunita

I thought you were going to be a lot of old white guys who want to talk us down on price.Greg

Commonly unhappy experiences around where chocolate begins has to be factored into the average age of cocoa farmers drastically increasing, as children of cacao producers are deciding to not continue cultivation. Greg and Dandelion are among those looking to change that equation by re-instilling pride in what they are doing at origin.

Work together with people you do know to change the industry, which is the way to change the world.Greg

Now we’re in an era of healing, hopefully with an effect of changing the way big players do business.Alex

The voices assembled were unified in sentiment: small steps can equal systems change.


Looking for ways you can lend your voice to the movement? Stay tuned via yellow-seed.org for co-creative cacao updates and also check out how industry innovators, Maya Mountain Cacao, are responding with a model pioneering emerging origins first in Belize and next in Guatemala. 

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