The Cultures of Chocolate

Class Dates

November 06, 2020 to November 13, 2020

Meeting Days

Fridays 4 - 5:30 PM


Online Course



Course Instructor(s)

This two-part workshop explores the history and present of chocolate production, from its natural origins in the jungles of Amazonia and Central America, via first domestication in Mesoamerica, to its spread around the world via colonialism, imperialism and capitalism. Dr. Benjamin Lawrance will consider the pre-historical processes of domestication of Theobroma cacao and contemporary agribusiness production. Dr. Ryan Kashanipour will shed light on the ethnobotanical properties of the plant and the magico-religious significance of cacao to ancient Mesoamerican cultures, the cooptation of cocoa by European civilizations, and the spread of cocoa production around the world. Dr. Silvana Martini will provide an introduction to the processes of refinement and confection of chocolate, and highlight new developments toward the marketing and sustainability of global production. Over two weeks, we will learn processing techniques and taste raw cacao much like ancient Mayans; we will imbibe the cocoa beverages of 14th century Aztecs and 18th century French aristocrats; and we will sample new chocolate confections celebrating the global diversity of industrial and artisanal production.

Registered participants will have the opportunity to purchase optional chocolate boxes for the tastings. The price of those chocolate boxes ($40 incl. shipping) is not included in the tuition.

To purchase the optional chocolate kit, please click here.


Week One: Discovery and Globalization

Introduction to course (Lawrance)

Mesoamerican Domestication, Religion, and Culture (Kashanipour) pairing: beans

Chocolate, Sugar and the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (Lawrance) pairing: nibs

Cultivation, Harvesting, Fermentation and Processing (Martini) pairing: chocolate liquor

Tasting & Processing: Raw Cocoa nibs; Refined chocolate; Creating cocoa paste; Aztec chocolātl; Spanish hot chocolate

Week Two: Refinement and Mass Consumption

The Invention of Modern Chocolate (Kashanipour) pairing: sweet chocolate

Cocoa Production and the Developing World (Lawrance) pairing: dark chocolate

Modern Confectionary Manufacture (Martini) pairing: cocoa butter and cocoa powder

Tasting & Processing: Refined chocolate; Baking with chocolate; New chocolate inventions

Attendance & Participation

This workshop will be delivered via the University of Arizona Zoom platform. The two class sessions will be LIVE ONLINE and will be recorded. The recordings will be shared with registered students after each session to facilitate access for those who cannot make the live sessions.


Online registration for this workshop is now openAfter registration participants will receive instructions about how to access the workshop online. 


Refunds are available and need to be requested before or by November 12. To drop a class, please contact Kerstin Miller at 520-621-5111 or A $25 administrative fee for each cancellation will apply.