Past Events

The Academy of Chocolate Conference 2016 : Chocolate in A New Era: Sustainability, Innovation and Education

Hosted by Nigel Barden, the conference focused on that complex and vexed word: sustainability. Sara Jayne Stanes opened the proceedings by defining the essence of sustainability, food policies, ethics and how it impacts on different parts of the chocolate and cocoa growing world. But do attempts to define it raise more questions than answers?

AoC Board member: Christopher Reeves’ concerns focussed on the inescapable mega-trends offering stark facts. For a start, by 2030 the world will need 35 per cent more food, not least chocolate, as populations and demand grow.

From Bill Guyton, founder and formerly CEO of the World Cocoa Foundation

we heard about schemes to educate farmers and increase productivity in a sustainable manner. Then came probing questions from the floor about the effectiveness and scale of such work, especially in West Africa, producer of three-quarters of the world’s beans, where productivity has flat-lined and farmers are struggling.

Keynote speaker, Antoine de Saint Affrique, CEO of Barry Callebaut discussed the importance and progress of Barry Callebaut’s ethical sourcing programme and the work on traceability and offered his best wishes for a successful conference. From Pierre Courtemanche, Bertil Akesson, Anke Massart* (responsible for Sourcing at Barry Callebaut), Angus Thirlwell*, Chantal Coady and Ashley Pasharam (from Trinidad) we also heard how lessons have been learnt from the past and learnt about innovation, ** event co-sponsors Hotel Chocolat and Barry Callebaut.  South America offers some large-scale ways forward – as can Fairtrade, if the premium is right.

Frank Homann of Xoco distilled some of the crunchiest issues on two slides. One showed how premium chocolate occupies an estimated 1 per cent of the whole chocolate market, as opposed to 50 per cent for coffee or 20 per cent for beer. Another infographic showed the costs of a chocolate bar, with 43% taken up by retailing. Are supermarkets making too much money?  Shelly Preston (from Ottar Chocolate – formerly Boutique Aromatique) talked about her experiences as a chocolate producer; and Will Torrent delivered a spell binding presentation on the merits of social media in raising the awareness of sustainability amongst chocolate lovers and the consumer.  And we should all start to spread the word through #newerachoc.  Doug Hardman summed up the day’s proceedings with a critical overview of each speakers contribution – well worth a read on  We were subsequently treated to a William Curley special Amedei chocolate dem and tasting.

The conference was held at the Royal Automobile Club, in the heart of London’s clubland, with its origins in the coffee and chocolate houses of the 17th and 18th centuries. In those days, chocolate was seen as a luxury and priced as such.  Whether cheap or fine, the issue of sustainability comes down, in part, to economics: will consumers or retailers be prepared to pay more and how can a greater percentage of this money reach the millions of smallholder growers so they can do better?

From politics, poverty and climate change to pleasure and chocolate pioneers, this thought-provoking and enjoyable event brought together the players who need to push forward to some answers, even as the questions grow.  Our audience spanned chocolate lovers, AoC members and students from Westminster Kingsway and Bromley Colleges.

A huge thank you to co-sponsors Barry Callebaut and Hotel Chocolat and the RAC.


The Academy of Chocolate Networking Supper: Traceability and Transparency in Today’s World of Chocolate

On Tuesday 2nd June 2015, Nicko Debenham gave a fascinating presentation on traceability and transparency in today’s world of chocolate. Nicko has very kindly provided us with access to the PowerPoint presentation, which can be accessed here:

15.06_Cocoa Sustainability_Royal Academy_to post_FINAL-1


The Academy of Chocolate Conference 2014

Please visit our Press Page for a summary of Conference proceedings.

Conference Flyer
The Academy of Chocolate Presents 
An Evening of Bean-to-Bar
The Academy of Chocolate Invites You to An Evening of Bean-to-Bar
The Academy of Chocolate Presents: Homage to Mott Green with Chantal Coady & James Booth
The Academy of Chocolate Presents Homage to Mott Green


The Academy of Chocolate Invites You to an Evening with Gianluca Franzoni





Thursday 3rd April

6.30pm – 9.00pm


295 Regent Street

London  W1B 2HJ

Domori has a vision and the determination of recovering the biodiversity of fine cocoa, innovating the post-harvest process and transforming it in such a way to express and communicate the aromas and sweetness of cocoa at its best, with elegance and smoothness.


Tour of ‘State of the Art’ Chocolate Lab

On Wednesday 26th February between 7.00-9.30pm members of the Academy of Chocolate received a tour of the ‘state of the art’ chocolate labs at Westminster Kingsway College, followed by a fabulous networking supper in The Escoffier Room.

Exclusive to members and their guests




Talking Heads with Craig Sams and Brandt Maybury, Tuesday 26th November 2013 – 6.30pm-8.30pm

The story of Green & Black’s and the evolution of chocolate cultivation compered by Simon Parkes

followed by a double-treat tasting of Green & Black’s and Rococo chocolates

Tuesday 26th November 2013  6.30pm – 8.30pm

Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly

The Academy of Chocolate is proud to present an evening
with the founder of ground-breaking chocolate brand Green & Black’s, Craig Sams, in conversation with Brandt Maybury, Green & Black’s Taste Specialist. Simon Parkes, award winning broadcaster and one of BBC Radio 4’s most familiar voices, will compere the session asking, among other things, whether organic smallholding production, ethical trading, widely affordable pricing and great taste can still form a feasible – and sustainable – combination.

No Academy of Chocolate evening is complete without a serious chocolate tasting. In addition to enjoying some Green & Black’s bars, we will have an opportunity to taste Award-winning filled chocolates, introduced by Barry Johnson, Head Chocolatier of another pioneering brand, Rococo Chocolates.



Clay Gordon Talks About US Chocolate in Conjunction with Guild of Food Writers – Wednesday 16th October 2013, 6.30-8.30pm

Fine Flavour Cacao
Talk and Tasting with Clay Gordon and the Academy of Chocolate in conjunction with the Guild of Food Writers
Wednesday 16 October from 6.30pm to 8.30pm
Sub Zero/Wolf Living Kitchen, 251 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London SW3 2EP

Guild of Food Writers

In conjunction with the Guild of Food Writers, we are once again marking Chocolate Week with a highly informative and hugely enjoyable workshop on the ‘Food of the Gods’. The Academy of Chocolate, chaired by Guild member Sara Jayne Stanes OBE, has secured for us the cutting-edge voice of international chocolate authority Clay Gordon, to suggest surprising responses to the question of what exactly constitutes ‘fine flavour’ in cacao and thus chocolate. Is it a matter of DNA (the much vaunted ‘criollo’ bean and hybrids), terroir, post harvest treatment, manufacture or…? Is it a matter for highly trained experts to define or should we pay heed to what most chocolate lovers (most people!) favour?

Amongst the chocolate we will taste to help illustrate his interactive talk, Clay will be bringing with him samples – otherwise unavailable in the UK – from artisan US producers doing what he consider to be good work – where bean quality is more important than label (either ‘type’ or origin). Sara and members of the Academy of Chocolate will be on hand to answer questions and join in the debate. A glass or two of wine should encourage discussion, as ever.

Clay Gordon is the author of the award-winning book Discover Chocolate and is the creator and moderator of, the world’s largest online community devoted specifically to chocolate with nearly 8,000 members in over 150 countries. He first started writing about chocolate professionally in May 2001, when he went live with the pioneering chocolate blog,

The Academy of Chocolate was founded in 2005 by five of Britain’s leading chocolate professionals, united in the belief that eating fine chocolate is one of life’s great pleasures. The Academy campaigns for better chocolate and to promote a greater awareness of the difference between fine chocolate and the mass-produced chocolate confectionery which most of us eat.





Academy of Chocolate Conference 2012 Summary of Sessions

The Academy of Chocolate held its second Conference on chocolate and cocoa and speakers from an international stage spoke on a wide range of issues affecting every area of interests from the cocoa farmer to the sensitivities of tasting.

 Chairman of the AoC Sara Jayne Stanes opened the Conference welcoming an audience of over 100 delegates to the RAC in Pall Mall, London and introduced host of the day, legendary broadcaster and journalist Simon Parkes.


Moderator: Clive Martyr

Speakers: Robin Dand (Consultant on cocoa and author of the International Cocoa Trade currently working with the ICCO), Freek Van Der Knaap (Vice President Gourmet Business Europe for Barry Callebaut), Tony Lass MBE (International Consultant)

Robin Dand outlined the key issues concerning cocoa as a commodity between those who consume and those who produce chocolate. There was a discussion on the pricing of chocolate which engaged delegates, in particular those who have businesses of their own. Tony Lass MBE gave an informed presentation on child labour, highlighting that the issues and solutions are far more complex than they are made out to be. He emphasised that child labour is a global problem, and not that it specific to the chocolate industry but that there is collective responsibility to target the issues until they are resolved.  He also pointed out that he was speaking on behalf of the Cocoa Initiative whose policies and position and work in progress can be accessed via its website.

Freek Van Der Knaap followed Tony with a presentation on the key market drivers and trends in the food and drink industry; including legislation, health and wellness, ethics, travel/migration and indulgence.


Moderator: Christopher Reeves

Speakers:  Craig Sams (Green & Black’s), Frank Homann (Xoco, Honduras), Santiago Peralta (Pacari, Ecuador)   

Craig Sams presented on the history of Green and Black’s chocolate and then moved on to discuss vanillinoids which are found to naturally occur in chocolate.

Frank Homann spoke about genes and gene complexes associated with flavour and highlighted that slight differences in phenotypes can create huge differences in the structure and makeup of chocolate.

Santiago Peralta talked about his experience of biodynamic farming and the effects it has had on Pacari’s cocoa beans in Ecuador especially its influence on increased production and yield. There was a healthy debate about the impact of environmental aspects of the land on flavour.  It was ultimately agreed that ‘terroir’ snd climate, among other elements, have a significant effect on flavour and quality.


Moderator: Christopher Reeves

Speakers: Tony Lass MBE, Bertil Akesson (Akesson’s Chocolate), Mott Green (Grenada Chocolate)

Tony Lass MBE highlighted the impact that traceability has started to beaer and explained that those in the industry have a responsibility to trace themselves from the farmers to pisteurs to traitants to exporters to shipping lines to the shop floor. This is necessary for a number of reasons including: legal requirements, flavour and quality, certification schemes and administration. He offered a clear example of Cocobod in Ghana of how traceability needs be traced from bean to bar. At Cocobod the cocoa beans are sealed by quality control at the farms but then once they reach the port the beans are mixed and put in large containers to be shipped. Tony suggested this as a method for the future whereby a passport could be created for cocoa which starts with the growers but can follow the cocoa to its end destination.

This session continued on to a discussion between the moderator Christopher Reeves, Bertil Akesson and Mott Green. Mott Green highlighted the advantages of having a small supply chain such as his and the impact his plantations have on the wider community and local families. It was emphasised that there must be more consideration on the ethics of chocolate as there are more global issues than child labour. Bertil Akesson emphasised that designated people should be employed t0 ensure traceability; however this is a premium that would need to be reflected in the end product. The suggestion that multinational companies are not in favour of fulfilling the traceability requirements created healthy debate on the floor. Simon Wright challenged this and suggested false dichotomy of small vs. large.


Moderator: Sarah Jane Evans MW

Speakers: Damian Allsop, William Curley, Claire Clark MBE MCA

This was a practical demonstration held by Sarah Jane Evans which involved all delegates tasting a selection of four chocolate from the same origin (Madagascar) but marginally different percentages. The panel analysed their descriptions and thoughts on the different types and discussed the complexities such as the aroma, fruit content, character, acidity, roasting, butter content and textures of the different chocolates. Claire Clark and William Curley discussed their choices from a patissiers’ perspective choosing the right product to marry them with a variety of flavours.  Damian Allsop stressed the evocative nature of tasting.

The session was concluded with the positive response that luxury chocolate is moving into a different sphere. The industry wants to educate customers by readily offering information and being as transparent as possible. The chocolate world is a small community but it is constantly growing and although it is moving in the right direction many delegates hoped that people will grow to appreciate the value of luxury chocolate.


Moderator:  Marie-Pierre Moine

Speakers: Amelia Rope (Amelia Rope Chocolates), Claire Burnet (Chococo), Paul a Young (Paul a Young), Claire Gallagher (Betty’s and Taylors), Angus Thirlwell  (Hotel Chocolat)

 Marie-Pierre Moine explored the issues involved in scaling up a business.  Each speaker began by introducing themselves and their company and its journey from embryonic to small, medium and large. Amelia Rope, a relative newcomerto the chocolate world, described her journey, highlighting the difficulties with cash flow when starting out. Claire Burnet from Chococo discussed the problems with being in a rural location and again the difficulties with lack of funding then starting a business. Paul Young emphasised his belief that although rapidly growing he is determined to maintain his businesses’ unique selling point of tempering his chocolate. Most of those on the panel had started their own businesses but Claire Gallagher from Betty’s and Taylors discussed the problems with a growing business which is 94 years old and how you try to maintain the culture with changing customer demand. Finally, Angus Thirlwell-described how Hotel Chocolat has grown – even having its own cacao plantations in St Lucia and adding Roast and Conch chocolate houses to his stable – made a reasoned and informative comparison to the small companies on the panel to a multi-national organisation.


Moderator: Chantal Coady (a world without cocoa)

Speakers: Chloe DoutreRoussel (International Chocolate and Cocoa Consultant), Clay Gordon (US Chocolate ‘guru’ and proprietor of The Chocolate Life), Yolande Stanley MCA (Senior Pastry Lecturer, Westminster Kingsway College)

Chantal Coady provided a framework of the future highlighting the real need for more money to go to farmers alongside developing infrastructure and extending education opportunities. Transparency is key from large companies to ensure that money goes back to the growers.

Chloe Doutre-Roussel spoke about Brazil with emphasis on the biodiversity of the Brazilian forest. Chloe explained that bioterrorism caused a disease to wipe out the entire cocoa crop of Brazil between 1987-92 but there has since been a rebirth of Brazilian fine cocoa with big future potential.

Yolande Stanley MCA illustrated the work she does at Westminster Kingsway College around educating young people in fine chocolate who are on culinary arts courses. Westminster Kingsway is currently working on incorporating the study of chocolate into the curriculum and this includes building a new experimental chocolate kitchen.

Clay Gordon concluded the session by drawing together different themes from the speakers throughout the day. Clay suggested that chocolate is one of the only products to source its ingredients so far away from where it is often made and that the cost of chocolate does not reflect this. Clay used a metaphor of the $100 bar of chocolate to explain that without high-end chocolate there is no market for specialist educators in this field yet education is what we should be concentrating on.  He also emphasised the importance of increasing the credibility of chocolate and those who work within it to have a recognised qualification similar to the MW in the wine industry.

Throughout the day, delegates were invited and encouraged to act as judges for the Quinta do Noval chocolate and port matching recipes.

Marie Pierre Moine and Clive Martyr had devised a quiz to tax the most knowledgeable chocolate lover which was distributed to all delegates.

Sara Jayne Stanes concluded the day with thanks, especially Consola Evans for efforts above the lines of duty, to the RAC and to the AoC Conference Committee and to everyone for coming and making this a hugely successful second Conference.  She also thanked Westminster Kingsway and University of West London students for their support. She commented that it had provided an opportunity to renew old friendships, make new friends and provide evidence, if it were needed, that this now is firm bi-annual diary date in the chocolate calendar.

Sarah Jane Evans then finally announced the good news that the Sixth Academy of Chocolate Awards was about to be launched.  Further news and details will be available during the next month with judging during the latter part of February 2013.

With thanks to the AoC conference committee: Sarah Jane Evans; Clive Martyr; Marie-Pierre Moine; Christopher Reeves; Sara Jayne Stanes; Angus Thirlwell; and to Andrew Archer and Dewberry Redpoint.

Academy of Chocolate Conference

8.30am – 5pm Friday 12th October 2012
The Royal Automobile Club, Pall Mall, London

Hosted by BBC radio legendary broadcaster Simon Parkes

Featuring leaders in the chocolate industry:
Tony Lass MBE past Director of Global Cocoa Supplies for Cadbury
Craig Sams Green & Black’s
Robin Dand formerly ICCO and Liffe
Freek Van Der Knaap, Barry Callebaut
Santiago Peralta, Ecuador
Frank Homann, Xoco
Chloe Doutre-Roussel
Mott Green, Grenada
Marie-Pierre Moine, AoC
Damian Allsop
Christopher Reeves, AoC
Sarah Jane Evans MW
Chantal Coady, Rococo
William Curley
Paul A Young
Claire Burnet, Chococo
Angus Thirwell, Hotel Chocolat
Clay Gordon, USA
Clive Martyr, AoC
Claire Gallagher, Betty’s & Taylors
Bertil Akesson
Sara Jayne Stanes OBE
Claire Clarke MBE

The Academy of Chocolate conference is aimed at all levels of knowledge, whether you already have a chocolate business, are starting a chocolate company or just love chocolate, this one day event will appeal.

With talks on sustainability, cacao genetics, cacao as a commodity, chocolate tastings, creating flavour combinations, the future of the chocolate industry, Fairtrade, meeting cacao and chocolate producers and much more.



An evening with Valrhona – Monday 21st May 2012 – Adam Street Gallery, WC2N 6AA

Sensory Analysis Manager, Vanessa Lemoine gave a fascinating talk about Valrhona’s chocolate making production. The evening was jam packed with interesting facts, a great taste and sensory session and of course lots of delicious chocolate.

Here’s what we learnt:

  • It takes over a year to become a Valrhona chocolate expert; they have more than 60. There are also 250 people who taste every day at every stage of the production.
  • Our smell is responsible for 90% of our taste and acidity is the only taste receptor we have in our jaw.
  • The taste of chocolate depends on your mood and what time of the day it’s tasted . At Valrhona chocolate panels taste at a specific time ever day to standardise the process and compare the results.
  • Aromas are released in 3 waves – 1) Head Aromas – flower and fruits 2) Body Aromas – dried fruit and warmer sensations 3) Heavier Aromas – roasted coffee.

Tuesday 22nd November 2011 – Whitechapel, London

LIFFE Principal Robin Dand gave a small group of members a tour of the grading rooms and an explantion of the grading process.


Tuesday 15th November 2011 – Canning House, 14 Belgrave Square London

Bringing together speakers from Helveta, PwC and the Academy of Chocolate, ‘Traceable Cocoa’ gave members and guests an opportunity to hear how the growing interest from consumers in where their chocolate has come from (and how it is made) is impacting on their chocolate industry and how companies are responding. The Academy of Chocolate is committed to supporting awareness of ingredients in chocolate and in transparency in sourcing of cacao beans with fair and ethical production. The evening covered front line issues and potential ways to address them profitably.


Thursday 5th May 2011 – The Sloane Club, Lower Sloane Street, London

Xoco [sho-koh] is the first company to embark on a large-scale reproduction of the rare Criollo and Trinitario tree types that produce fine flavor cocoa. Xoco choose rare heritage specimens and naturally reproduce them by grafting buds from selected mother trees onto seedlings. Xoco operates in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala supplying beans to artisan chocolate makers.

Frank Homann who founded Xoco spoke to Academy members about saving almost extinct cocoa types, the DNA techniques he uses to test cacao plants and the unique structure of the company who are involved in the whole process of grafting, entrusting the trees to local farmers and then buying the beans back at a guaranteed premium price. Frank was a fascinating speaker for the Academy to hear particularly as Xoco’s model is directly oriented towards poverty reduction, rural community empowerment, and environmental restoration in the countries where they operate.




Illustrating Barry Callebaut’s relationship with the Chocolate market concentrating in particular on the ongoing CSR issues that surround the production of the Cocoa.

Wednesday 2nd February 2011 – Apartment 24, Lower Sloane Street, London

Simon Harris – UK Gourmet Business Manager gave an introduction covering how Barry Callebaut is interacting with the artisan user while Marina Morari – Corporate CSR Manager – based in Zurich spoke about CSR – and why it is a core activity in Barry Callebaut’s business today and for the future. Marina also touched upon the structured interaction between Barry Callebaut and the farmer with the specific

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