You might think that the best part of being in the chocolate biz is, well, the chocolate. I won’t argue that it isn’t a significant perk, but the part I like best is the diversity of people I get to meet as part of travelling, tasting and learning. And within chocolate, you’ve got crazy mad scientists who obsess over detail, loosey-goosey hippies who feel their way through the process and activist-development folks who use chocolate as a vehicle to help others.
On the latter point, here’s Rebecca Roebber of Kallari Chocolate. I’ll let her explain the finer details below, in an excerpt from our conversation at last year’s Northwest Chocolate Festival.
What is Kallari Chocolate known for?
Kallari Chocolate is the only farmer-owned chocolate bar in the world, where 100% of the profits go to the farmers that grow the cacao. That’s because they process the entire bean, from bean to bar, and it happens in 20 days from the time they harvest and ferment the bean.
It started in ’98 as a women’s cooperative that made artisanal, handcrafted necklaces and it began as a chocolate company in 2008 when they launched in the US with a finished product in the market.
How did you come to chocolate?
Well, I was travelling in South America and I ended up on the fincas. I stayed there for a while learning how to harvest the bean, how to make chocolate. I was working in community development, and especially sustainable community development, and this was kind of the perfect fit for me. And when I returned to the US I started doing presentations at universities, teaching people how to taste chocolate, teaching them where it comes from and how that can support the farmers.
What’s the best part of your job?
The endless supply of chocolate, probably. And the fact that I can go back to Ecuador sometime with the company and work with the farmers. The cultural exchange is really exciting.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
I think the fact that I’m dealing with farmers in Ecuador. Sometimes if I need something done or need to ask them a question, it can take days, weeks…and sometimes it never really gets answered.
What would you do if you weren’t working with chocolate?
You know, I just got back from teaching English in Korea for a while, so I’d probably be somehow travelling more, doing more work with indigenous groups. I really like community development.