Scholar Series: Dr. Carla D. Martin, Harvard Professor and Founder of the FCCI


Manage episode 244998350 series 1402269
By Lauren Heineck. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Description: Carla D. Martin, PhD, is the Founder and Executive Director of the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (FCCI), a Lecturer in the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. She leads the course: ‘Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food’, known to many in the chocolate industry as ‘Chocolate Class’. Her work at the FCCI focuses on identifying, developing, and promoting fine cacao and chocolate, primarily by addressing ethics and quality issues in the supply chain. A social anthropologist with interdisciplinary interests that include history, agronomy, ethnomusicology, and linguistics, her current research focuses on the politics of fine cacao and chocolate in a global perspective, for which she has conducted fieldwork in West Africa, Latin America, North America, and Europe.
From 2011-2015, she maintained a scholarly blog on chocolate, culture, and the politics of food at Bittersweet Notes. Her previous academic research examined the longstanding problem of language inequality in Cape Verde and its large diaspora and how scholars and creative artists have both perpetuated and challenged this inequality. Through historical and ethnographic study she charted the elements of language, race, gender, and social class expressed through music and the arts into the sociopolitical world of which they are a part and explored the ongoing, fruitful interventions and subversions made by Cape Verdean performers in debates surrounding the meaning of womanhood, "Africanness," and "Creoleness." Her writing has also appeared or is forthcoming in Transition Magazine, Social Dynamics, The Root, US History Scene, Sodade Magazine,, The Savannah Review, and edited volumes. She lectures widely and has taught extensively in African and African American Studies, critical food studies, social anthropology, and ethnomusicology, and has received numerous awards in recognition of excellence in teaching. She received her PhD in African and African American Studies in 2012, her MA in Social Anthropology in 2007, and her BA in Social Anthropology in 2003, all from Harvard University. Find her online at and @carladmartin.

Podcast RSS
Dr. Carla D. Martin Photo credit: FCCI

Dr. Carla D. Martin Photo credit: FCCI

Topics discussed in this chocolate podcast episode:
- Dr. Martin's Cape Verdean fellowship, launching her chocolate career and area of scholarship
- Her PhD in African and African American Studies and Anthropology provided a foundation for lessons and a future focused on the study and awareness of inequality
- Creating a syllabus for ‘Chocolate Class’ — 200 students the first year alone; now teaching thousands, both in-person and online through Harvard Extension School
- How the FCCI started, and how academia was woven into activities focused around industry education and research; support of the specialty market
- Colin Gasko's cacao quality class; originally a beta class with Dr. Kristy Leissle / Jamin Haddox (SCA professor) became the Cacao Grader Intensive through FCCI to adapt and scale it to be accessible to more people globally. With goals to: provide a curriculum (especially for producers*) to identify defects in raw materials, better access the market (size, operations). *Members of the supply chain, cacao producers, co-operative staff, and farm managers.
- The approach that has become known as the 'Raw cacao methodology' or FCCI Methodology. Simple and effective, possible with only a very small sample of beans.

A much more healthy supply chain would involve a conversation, a negotiation, and an awareness of the power dynamic that puts cacao producers in the sort of weak negotiation position that exists today. - Dr. Carla D. Martin

- How the chocolate industry works in silos — FCCI and the The Chocolate Conservatory born out of the challenges of connecting institutions and removing barriers of isolation within the industry.
- The Chocolate Conservatory runs as a net-zero event. This year’s theme at the European Business School in Paris is ‘The Responsibility of Taste.’
- At the event, they will champion voices that are innovative and political. Women speakers are actually counted (to understand and offer transparency regarding representation), as are POC of all genders. Expertise is valuable from all, but it’s not the only trait that exists. Speakers are diverse in their tenures and backgrounds.

”…we (the industry) are prioritizing flavor and quality over all else, while making strident claims about the social, economic or environmental responsibility of what we’re doing.” - Dr. Carla D. Martin on ‘The Responsibility of Taste” via the Well Tempered Podcast

- How Dr. Martin approaches labor in general. How labor history is tied to human history.
- Drug crops — driving the development of capitalism globally, agriculture products that are unnecessary for survival but stimulate, inebriate, etc.
- Enslaved labor that developed the commodity system, and ultimately changed public perception of what to pay for final products.
- The popularization of child labor in the cocoa value chain and the role of the International Labour Organization. What has been reduced to a single issue is much more complex, and can include familial child labor, detrimental labor to children (such as: forced, with the use pesticides), community/cultural systems and so forth (accessible education systems, family dynamics, survival).
- Labor insecurities in other fields
- What raising prices would mean to the supply chain
- Companies’ responsibilities to paying more and what it might look like. Will they - heirs for example - share a piece of the pie?
- The stigmatization of cacao from West Africa, and negative marketing alongside this.
- Access to abuse-free labor products
- Inequality and corporations playing saviors or giving themselves personhood — companies intend to step-in and do what producers “can’t do”.
- The retail squeeze; Retailers being flexible to give up some of their margins.
- The standard trajectory of the getting into retail, and from there how scale and price reduction harms this top-bottom approach. Most supermarket based bars thought to be priced at a USD $3.69-$3.99 sweet spot.
- The New England Chocolate Festival October 12-13, 2019; & Chocotoberfest events by the FCCI. Consumers are seeking experiential connections to their food and producers.
- Education for consumers — how to tackle, where the industry stands
- Women in chocolate current status and future of

Links related to this episode:
Summer/Fall 2019 creation and launch of the ‘Asociación para el Fomento del Chocolate ‘Bean to Bar’ de Tueste Artesano en España’, Spanish Bean to Bar Association
ChocoMad International Chocolate Salon/Festival in Madrid, Spain each September
LA Burdick Chocolates, a New England chocolate enterprise.
Evelyn Brooks Higginsbotham, Harvard Professor and mentor to Carla

Professor Romi Burks
More on drug crops, such as Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History by Sidney W. Mintz
Dr. Amanda Berlan writings; here and here
Fair Food Program
Barry Estabrook — Tomatoland
Dengo Chocolate Brazil — an example of higher farm gate prices paid. They are committed to buy cacao even if the factory can’t process it at that precise time.

Dr. Marie-Catherine Paquier ; author of The monastic product’s biography, a sacralization wave
FCCI staffer/Culinary Institute of America graduate José Lopez Ganem

Jamin Haddox coffee expert and instructor
Dr. Lauren McCarthy. Studies and lectures on corporate social responsibility and feminism; communities, allyship, and certifications. Examples of her writings: Consciousness-raising in the cocoa supply chain & Feminism hasn’t sold out even if it is being used as a marketing tool
Legacy chocolate companies in the Boston area and mentioned on the podcast:
Taza Chocolate
Equal Exchange
Where to find more from FCCI:
Instagram: @chocoinstitute
Twitter: @chocoinstitute
Facebook: FCCI
Website: Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute
Where to find Lauren, host of Well Tempered Media productions and chocolate maker at WKND Chocolate:
Instagram: @wkndchocolate
Twitter: @wkndchocolate
Articles, podcasts, chocolate recipes, and Conversations in Cocoa at

41 episodes