Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Geography of Chocolate

When I was shown these cacao husks being composted on a small farm in Nicaragua, I could not help but admire the surprising variety of colors. I was visiting the farm with students as part of my 2010 Geography of Coffee study tour in Jinotega and Matagalpa. Although Coffea arabica and Theobroma cacao are not close botanical relatives, the geography of chocolate is remarkably similar to that of cacao.

All of my visits to Nicaragua have included Castillo Cacao, an artisanal factory in Matagalpa, and as the cultivation of cacao (from which chocolate is made) continues to expand in Nicaragua's coffeelands, we intend to make cacao farms a regular part of the program with Matagalpa Tours, as we will in January 2013.

And just as my interest in the geography of coffee has now led me to work on the geography of tea, librarian Pamela Hayes-Bohanan and I have now been invited to teach an entire course on the geography of chocolate at the Institute for Sustainable International Study in Cayo, Belize. Our two-week class -- Mayan Gold -- will combine Pam's expertise on Mayan culture with my growing understanding of the global trade in chocolate and cacao (the food and the crop, respectively), and is available for easily transferred credits.

Interested students can contact me for details at jhayesboh@bridgew.edu, or contact ISIS directly.

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