Welcome to our series of Craft Chocolate in Conversation. These are (loosely) modelled on the ‘Desert Island Disks’ format but instead of music tracks, we use relevant craft chocolates to explore our guests’ experiences, and we ‘taste along’ with them at a virtual tasting session on Zoom.
We aim to hold these monthly, and we’ll have plenty of new guests, as well as returning familiar faces including Professor Barry Smith, Julian Baggini, Rebecca Palmer, Tim Spector and more! With these experts we will be discussing everything from philosophy to wine, and texture to feasting.
These Craft Chocolate in Conversation sessions are free to attend; simply book your space by registering on our calendar page. However, during these sessions we’ll also be trying some of our experts’ favourite chocolates, so why not join in with the tasting. All you need to do is buy your tasting kit.
Keep an eye out for any upcoming guests. You can register your interest in some of our planned line-up, and we’ll let you know when have more details.
Chris Packham is a beloved naturalist and broadcaster, who has been communicating the beauties and wonders of the natural world to audiences for decades. Chris’s familiar face has appeared on TV screens for many years, and millions of people have been given a connection to nature, through his landmark series such as BBC’s Springwatch. Not only is he an accomplished writer, broadcaster and conservationist, but he is also passionate about great chocolate! We’ll be sitting down with Chris, and tasting through a selection of bars which help to tell his story.
Kristy Leissle is a celebrate researcher and author who has explored every corner of the chocolate sector. Known as the ‘doc of choc’, she has travelled extensively, engaging with stakeholders throughout the cocoa supply chain. Her book, simply titled ‘Cocoa‘, is a seminal piece of writing which details the politics and economics of chocolate, from bean to bar. Dr Leissle will be sharing her insights on the people and places involved in creating the chocolate we love.
Philosophy, Religion and the Sacred Cacao Bean. In this philosophical talk and chocolate tasting, we’ll be looking at what makes chocolate truly divine, or perhaps something even better. Philosopher Julian Baggini has just published a book on the greatest food movie of all time, Babette’s Feast, and Julian will be applying ideas from that to chocolate. Julian will be trying to persuade you that much of what we seek in religion can be found in the mortal, material world, and that cacao is one way to unlock this.
Tim Spector is Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College, a craft chocolate aficionado, and one of the driving forces behind the crowded Covid-19 app. He is also passionate about fermentation and its importance to our gut health. During this Craft Chocolate in Conversation with Tim, we’ll delve into Tim’s just released book, Spoon Fed, and discuss a range of topics from fermentation to our microbiome – along with tasting some of his favourite Craft Chocolate Bars too.
Pablo Spaull – September 2022
As well as being a long-time supplier of ceremonial-grade criollo cacao, Pablo has been part of dozens of cacao ceremonies and is a real expert on their benefits. He joined Spencer, and guests, for an exploration of cacao ceremonies.
Kristy Leissle – June 2022
Dr Kristy Leissle, ‘doc of choc’, joined us again for another fascinating conversation about African chocolate. This time, Dr Leissle sat down in our office, along with Spencer and cocoa sourcing expert Kate Cavallin, to explore some of the issues in Africa’s cocoa world.
Kristy Leissle – Jan. 2022
Kristy Leissle is a celebrate researcher and author who has explored every corner of the chocolate sector. Known as the ‘doc of choc’, she has travelled extensively, engaging with stakeholders throughout the cocoa supply chain. In this conversation, Dr Leissle shared her insights, busting some myths about Africa cocoa and chocolate.
Rachel McCormack – Dec. 2021
Author and broadcaster Rachel McCormack is an authority on all things Scotch whisky. She joined us to explore the pairings possible between craft chocolate and Scotch whisky. Spencer and Rachel talked about the histories and geographies of both whisky and chocolate, and, given the time of year, spent a bit of time thinking about Christmas too!
Lauren Adler – Oct. 2021
We were joined by Lauren Adler, founder of Chocopolis, to explore the tastes flavours of a range of craft chocolates. In this special Craft Chocolate in Conversation session, Spencer and Lauren look at 3 pairs of bars with different interpretations of the same bean origins. A “duel/dual” tasting! Along the way, there’s lots of opportunity to examine flavour, origins, and chocolate making.
Bronwen Percival – Sept. 2021
We sat down with Bronwen Percival from the award winning cheesemakers, Neal’s Yard Dairy. We tasted a selection of artisan cheeses, and hand-picked craft chocolates, while exploring how different farmers’ and makers’ methods can create sharply distinctive flavours, tastes, textures and levels of astringency in both.
James Hoffmann – Mar. 2021
During our second Craft Chocolate in Conversation with James Hoffmann, we hand-picked six bars that demonstrate the similarities between craft chocolate and specialty coffee. James and Spencer discussed some of these similarities in depth, and wondered together about the myriad ways in which craft chocolate can learn from specialty coffee.
On this evening we were joined by Original Beans founder, Philipp Kauffmann. Former conservationist at the World Wildlife Fund and the United Nations, Philipp started his chocolate-making venture with the focus on protecting farmers, the rainforest, and thousands of endangered species. All through the means of incredibly delicious and sustainably sourced cacao.
On this evening we were joined by TV chef and award-winning cookery book writer, Rachel Khoo. Using the medium of chocolate, Rachel and Spencer discussed her fascinating life story and journey from childhood to the pinnacle of the cooking world.
Philosophy, Religion and the Sacred Cacao Bean. In this philosophical talk and chocolate tasting, we took a look at what makes chocolate truly divine, or perhaps something even better. Philosopher Julian Baggini has just published a book on the greatest food movie of all time, Babette’s Feast, and Julian applied ideas from that to chocolate, in an attempt to persuade you that much of what we seek in religion can be found in the mortal, material world, and that cacao is one way to unlock this.
You can buy a selection of bars, complete with Julian’s new book and presented in a stylish Cocoa Runners gift box, here.
Tim Spector is Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College, a craft chocolate aficionado, and one of the driving forces behind the crowded Covid-19 app. He is also passionate about fermentation and its importance to our gut health. During this Craft Chocolate in Conversation with Tim, we delved into Tim’s newly-published book, Spoon-Fed, and discussed a range of topics from fermentation to our microbiome – along with tasting some of his favourite Craft Chocolate Bars too.
If you enjoyed this tasting, why not buy the book and bars for a loved one?
Barry Smith is a professor of philosophy and director of the Institute of Philosophy at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study. He is also the founding director of the Centre for the Study of the Senses, which pioneers collaborative research between philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists. A philosopher of language and mind, his current research is on the multisensory nature of perceptual experience, focusing on taste, smell and flavour. And he believes that Craft Chocolate is a fantastic tool to explain and explore how these multi-modal experiences of taste, flavour, smell and texture.
Vanessa Kimbell is a legend in sourdough, baking, fair trade, the gut microbiome and much, much more. During the course of the evening, Spencer will be chatting to Vanessa about her Italian mother, how she first began working in the village bakery in France as a child, why she fell in love with bread and has never looked back. In addition to being a sourdough (and indeed baking overall) expert in nutrition and digestibility of bread, she is also a regular Radio 4 Food Contributor on everything from vanilla, chocolate and tea. We’ll also discuss her personal fascination with gut health and how that led her to develop teaching courses for baking bread at home that not only tastes amazing but also nourishes your gut microbiome
What a morning pleasure it is to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee with an amazing bar of chocolate. And so we’re delighted to be joined by three-time UK Barista Champion & three-time world finalist, Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, for a morning of pairing different coffees with chocolate. We’ll also taste more chocolate alongside Maxwell as we discuss the differences and similarities in coffee.
Join us for an interactive chocolate tasting with award-winning author and investigative journalist Isabel Vincent. Isabel’s latest book, Dinner with Edward: The Story of an Unexpected Friendship, is a memoir of her deep five-year friendship with a lonely widower, and tells of their weekly dinners, prepared by Edward, and the wide-ranging advice he shared with her. We’ll be using six special chocolate bars to explore Isabel’s life, career, and life-changing friendship with Edward.