Last Friday, we held our Annual Kingdon Society Lecture. This was a special event, as we were able to open it to the whole community. These lectures are usually reserved for Academic Scholars. Spencer Hyman from Cocoa Runners gave an interactive talk, with topics including the geography and environmental impact of mass-produced chocolate. James Lloyd-Jones (Third Form) reflects on the evening, in the report below.
“We were treated to an evening of chocolate and fun by Spencer Hyman from Cocoa Runners. The chocolate was real but due to COVID-19, the lecture was virtual. For a couple of hours, Spencer enlightened us on everything chocolate – how it grows and the history of chocolate drinking and eating. He explained the problems that the demand for chocolate has caused – the effect that growing and farming cocoa beans have had on areas of West Africa, where the destruction of the rainforests over the last few years has been dramatic and irreversible unless we act soon. We also learned that up to 2.1 million children are used to farm cocoa beans. To make it worse, some of the children are as young as ten years old. We also learnt that farmers, on average, are paid less than $0.78 a day.
Spencer gave us three golden rules to ensure that we buy and eat chocolate in a smart and sustainable way – a way that is good for us and the planet: Always check the chocolate bar label for ingredients – less really is more! This helps us understand what we are putting in our bodies; Always check the packaging for details of the farmer and estate – this is to make sure children are not being used in the production of the chocolate; Check the packaging for the maker’s address details – ‘Swiss’ chocolate is rarely from Switzerland, for example.
Ready and waiting, with special Cocoa Runners boxes of craft chocolate from around the world, we began. First, Spencer gave us lessons in chocolate tasting, introducing a different chocolate each time. Using menti.com, an interactive presentation tool, Spencer asked us to describe the chocolate we were tasting – was it smoky, floral, fruity, smooth, silky or bitter?
We tasted a massive variety of dark chocolate to start with. We tasted Pump Street chocolate from Jamaica, Original Beans Piura Porcelana from Peru, Original Beans Virunga from Congo D.R, Taza Mexican-style Stone Ground chocolate, Conexion chocolate from Ecuador with chocolate nibs (which tasted weirdly like unripe bananas) and Pralus Madagascar 100% chocolate. Most of the dark chocolate was delicious, although the 100% pure chocolate bar was a bit of a challenge for a few of us.
Moving onto the milk chocolate, we tasted Original Bean Esmeraldas from Ecuador and Menakao Madagascar chocolate. We continued to vote for our favourites, mine was the last one – a creamy, caramel milk chocolate.
The finale was a quiz on what we had learnt and a chance to ask Spencer all the chocolate-related questions we could think of. This was a great evening in which we all learnt a huge amount and we probably won’t look at a chocolate bar or box in quite the same way ever again.
I would like to thank Spencer and Cocoa Runners for hosting such a great event and Mr Jones for arranging it all.”