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The FCCI-Zorzal-Dandelion Growing Cocoa Course is a

fourteen-day training on specialty cocoa production.

This course is presented by the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (FCCI), Zorzal Cacao, and Dandelion Chocolate.

Please note that Growing Cocoa will not be offered in person during Covid-19 physical distancing and travel restrictions.

Stay tuned to our e-newsletters for updates on availability.






The specialty cocoa market has grown considerably in recent years. However, the expansion of the market is dependent, among other factors, on consistent quality cocoa and chocolate production. Currently, there is a lack of on-the-ground training for producers, practitioners, and students interested in participating in the specialty cocoa market. Growing Cocoa aims to fill this knowledge gap directly by providing theoretical introductions with hands-on experiential learning at a prominent specialty cocoa origin. Led by leading experts in the field of farm management, harvest and post-harvest techniques, storage, markets, cocoa grading, and chocolate quality evaluation, course participants will receive advanced curriculum related to the full life cycle of specialty seedling to bar.


  • To contribute to the growth of a sustainable specialty cocoa and craft chocolate market, with special attention to equal distribution of knowledge and economic, environmental, and social benefits throughout the supply chain.

  • To build capacity in all areas of specialty cocoa production, transfer knowledge learned to other cocoa producing origins, and increase cocoa quality supplied to the marketplace.



Introduction to specialty cocoa and chocolate

  • Genetics and tree nursery management

  • Cacao agronomy and harvest practice

  • Fermentation and drying theory and design

  • Farm management and conservation

  • Storage and shipping

  • Cocoa market economics and politics

  • Quality standards

  • Sustainability goals and initiatives

  • Sensory analysis and sample preparation

  • Flavor and the experience economy


Stakeholders interested in learning intermediate to advanced level topics related to cocoa production. Cooperatives or businesses interested in starting their own cocoa producing facility, cocoa farmers, chocolate makers, students interested in food supply chains, foodservice professionals, and industry professionals.

What can participants expect? Two weeks of intensive cocoa production training. The course is split between 50% lectures (in the field and classroom) and 50% practical application of methods (grafting, pruning, fermentation, nursery prep, etc.).


Areas around San Francisco de Macoris, Reserva Zorzal, Cabarete, and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.


Intermediate to advanced: While we do not require prerequisite courses, an application to the program will be required of all potential participants. We also expect that participants will engage fully in learning about all aspects of cocoa production — this training will involve both classroom time and fieldwork, and you will get dirty!

Key founding collaborators: Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, Zorzal Cacao, and Dandelion Chocolate.

Stay tuned for updates on additional government, academic, corporate, and producer collaborators in and outside of the Dominican Republic.


Charles Kerchner, PhD, Zorzal Cacao
Dr. Kerchner has twenty years of experience leading conservation finance projects with government, academia, and the private sector on domestic and international sustainable forestry initiatives. He is the co-founder of Reserva Zorzal, a 1,019 acre bird sanctuary and organic cacao farm in the Dominican Republic, where he specializes in the technical aspects of cacao agronomy, fermentation and drying as well being tasked with cocoa business development responsibilities. Dr. Kerchner’s landscape scale forest conservation initiatives in cocoa producing countries has been funded and recognized by the World Bank, United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, among others. He holds a B.A. from Lafayette College, an M.S. in Forest Economics from the University of Vermont, and a Ph.D. in Forestry from the University of Vermont.

José Lopez Ganem, Research Fellow, Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute
José is an emerging academic on Mexican cacao and chocolate, conducting interdisciplinary research drawing on the fields of history, culture, public policy, trade, and sensory analysis. He has presented his work at several scholarly forums such as Harvard University, Boston University, the Culinary Institute of America, and European Business School Paris, among others. He is also an instructor for the Cacao Grader Intensive, a curriculum developed by FCCI. His professional experience includes work in cultural and food studies, as well as an engaged period in the food industry in New York City. He graduated magna cum laude from the Culinary Institute of America in 2018.


Carla D. Martin, PhD, Executive Director/Lecturer, FCCI/Harvard University
Carla D. Martin, PhD, is the Founder and Executive Director of the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute and a Lecturer in the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Carla is a social anthropologist whose current research focuses on ethics, quality, and politics in cacao and chocolate and draws on several years of domestic and international ethnographic experience. 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 and research.



Kathryn Cavallin, Cacao Latitudes
Kate began her career in cocoa as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic working with a cooperative of organic farmers. In 2011, she moved to Ecuador to build Ecom’s sourcing operation, working directly with farmers and associations sourcing specialty, certified and bulk cocoa. Convinced that a new approach is needed to facilitate transformation towards higher quality and more socially and environmentally responsible practices throughout the chain, she recently moved to Cacao Latitudes. She is putting her years of cocoa expertise in the field at the service of both small holder farmers and a growing community of passionate and committed chocolate makers.

Gregory D’Alesandre, Chocolate Sourcerer, Dandelion Chocolate
Greg has been working with chocolate for over twenty years, and making chocolate for the last decade. He started making liquid nitrogen truffles in college with “borrowed” equipment from the physics lab. He has been with Dandelion Chocolate for 5 years as partial owner and Chocolate Sourcerer, traveling the world to find great cacao to use to make great chocolate. He is co-author of “Making Chocolate: From Bean to Bar to S’More.” He feels strongly about direct sourcing cacao and building lasting relationships with the network of cacao producers and chocolate makers around the world. While his background is in electrical engineering and product management, he has been using these skills to help run the business.

Stay tuned for updates on additional guest

experts who will provide instruction for this course.

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