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FCCI is honored to introduce The Chocolate Conservatory, a singular event for the specialty cacao-chocolate community to engage in deep discussion on pressing issues and collaborative workshopping of shared challenges. Founded in 2018, The Chocolate Conservatory gathers together engaged industry professionals to work closely with a diverse and talented group of creative actors from specialty food and academia, providing an opportunity for constructive dialogue. For two days, Conservatory attendees experience the intensity – and challenge – of understanding the present state of the industry and co-designing its future. The program is complemented by sensory experiences designed to educate and inspire as new ideas and future collaborations emerge. The Conservatory’s setting on the Harvard University campus and amid New England’s growing chocolate scene provides an ideal environment for discussing projects, sharing insights, getting to know colleagues, and becoming acquainted with the next generation of significant work in cacao and chocolate.


Innovative and emerging research and education on specialty cacao and chocolate are at the core of the conference. The Chocolate Conservatory features daily lectures by academic experts on topics driven by community interest, as well as professional presentations on impact-driven industry projects. Discussions between speakers and attendees follow these presentations, creating space for meaningful interaction. Afternoon workshops focused on solving industry problems foster in-depth cooperation and forward action. Groups are kept small to facilitate discussion and allow for a focus on specific aspects of the craft of specialty cacao and chocolate. Sensory activities prepared by culinary professionals take place throughout the day and into the night. The outcomes of these discussions – ideas, challenges, and solutions – are reviewed, recorded, and distributed for take-away after each event. The Chocolate Conservatory is designed to offer a forum through which the cacao-chocolate community can progress collaboratively and in real-time.


The Chocolate Conservatory aims to facilitate international, intergenerational conversations around ethics and quality in cacao and chocolate, as well as to widely share the most innovative ideas that emerge during the event. The first Chocolate Conservatory will be hosted in collaboration with Harvard University, with subsequent events to follow in Mexico, Japan, and Ghana. At the first event, attendees will hail from the realms of cacao production, trade, chocolate manufacturing, retail, hospitality, specialty food, anthropology, agricultural economics, business studies, and development studies. We anticipate participant representation from Africa, Latin America, Europe, North America, and Asia.

Attendance is open to academics and industry members with a demonstrated focus on specialty cacao and chocolate, and requires an application, pre-registration, and a fee. The event will accommodate speakers of multiple languages with translation as needed.

If you are serious about participating in the development of a robust specialty cacao and chocolate industry, this event is for you. The schedule is filled with networking, academic guidance, industry project presentation and critique, and sensory experiences, all designed to energize participants toward professional and collaborative growth.

2018 dates and location

Thursday, October 11 to Friday, October 12. The conference will take place at Harvard University’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

2018 speakers and guests

The Chocolate Conservatory will feature 2 academic lectures by 4 scholars, 3 industry panels with over one dozen professionals, multiple collaborative workshops, and several interactive sensory activities. In addition to their academic and industry accomplishments, each speaker and workshop facilitator has been specifically chosen for their skill at guiding developing thinkers in the cacao-chocolate space.

Conservatory schedule

Below is the current schedule for The Chocolate Conservatory. Details are currently being finalized and will be released in late July.

Thursday, October 11
09:00 AM Meet and greet
09:45 AM Sensory kick-off
• Chloe Doutre Roussel, Chloe Chocolat
• Karine Guillemette, Miss Choco
10:00 AM Expert lecture: Impact and transparency
• Dr. Summer Allen, International Food Policy Research Institute
• Dr. Amanda Berlan, De Montfort University
11:00 AM Recess
11:15 AM Expert panel: Impact and business practice in specialty cacao
• Abel Fernandez, CONACADO
• Dr. Erica Caple James, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
• Jesse Last, Taza Chocolate
• Dr. Kristy Leissle, Twin Trading
• Heriberto Paredes Urena, Zorzal Cacao
• Emily Stone, Uncommon Cacao
01:15 PM Lunch
02:15 PM Workshops: Collaborative transparency reporting
04:15 PM Recess
04:30 PM Day 1 summary
05:00 PM Expert panel and tasting: The Specialty Beverage Industry
• Christie Dufault, Culinary Institute of America
• Lauren Friel, VinDrop and Rebel Rebel
• Douglass Miller, Cornell University
07:00 PM Close of the day

Friday, October 12
09:00 AM Networking
09:45 AM Sensory kick-off
• David Castellan, SOMA Chocolate
• Cynthia Leung, SOMA Chocolate
10:00 AM Expert lecture: The size and significance of the specialty market
• Dr. Carla D. Martin, Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute and Harvard University
• Dr. Elisa Montiel Welti, Chocolat Bonnat
11:00 AM Recess
11:15 AM Expert panel: Defining and practicing specialty craftsmanship
• NutRada Kunavivattananon, BlueKoff
• Michael Laiskonis, Institute of Culinary Education
• Dr. Marie-Catherine Paquier, European Business School
• Dr. Liz Thach MW, Sonoma State University
• Adriana Villanueva, InConexus
01:15 PM Lunch
02:15 PM Workshop: Collaborative industry definitions
04:15 PM Recess
04:30 PM Expert panel and tasting: The path of craftsmanship
• Stephen Durfee, Culinary Institute of America
• Michael Laiskonis, Institute of Culinary Education
• Lisa Vega, Dandelion Chocolate
05:20 PM Digital participation from our global community
05:30 PM Closing remarks
05:45 PM Social mixer
07:00 PM Close of the day

To apply

Please submit an application via this form: https://goo.gl/forms/tN9zasQFFIKDjhe82

Our planning committee will review applications on a rolling basis. For applications submitted by July 27, admission decisions were made and applicants notified by July 30. For applications submitted by August 10, admission decisions were made and applicants notified by August 13. For applications submitted by August 24, admission decisions will be made and applicants notified by August 27.

Registration cost

If you are selected to attend the conference you will be required to pay a $200 registration fee which will be processed via credit card during the registration process. Registrants will be asked to agree to our standards of conduct.

New England Chocolate Festival

The Chocolate Conservatory precedes the New England Chocolate Festival, to be held on Saturday, October 13. Participants in The Chocolate Conservatory are encouraged to avail themselves of the community-building possibilities of the Festival as well.

Travel and accommodations

The Harvard Square area has a variety of accommodation options, including hotels, AirBnb, and VRBO. The Conservatory will take place in Harvard Square, Cambridge, on the MBTA subway Red Line. The nearest airport is Boston Logan International (BOS).

Frequently asked questions

Coming soon.