Professor Maria Grazia Quieti, Director of AUR's MA in Food Studies, was recently honored to be invited to the opening of a new state-of-the-art cacao R&D laboratory & training center at the Cacao of Excellence Program, led by an alliance between Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).  

Brigitte Laliberte gave an overview of the Cacao of Excellence Program and of the facility located in the center of Rome. The facility will be dedicated to exploring the depths of cacao quality and to sensory analysis, revealing the diversity of cacao flavor profiles. This is an important step in identifying the diversity of cacao flavor profiles. In this way, the Cacao of Excellence program publicly recognizes the vital role of the producers, the smallholder farmers, in preserving the value and diversity of cacao - thereby also maintaining the sustainability of the cacao supply chain.  

The focus on smallholders was also emphasized by Juan Lucas Restrepo, Director General of the Alliance for Bioversity International and CIAT, who stated, "We are committed to recognizing, valuing and promoting superior quality cacao and its diversity as a means to empower producers and entrepreneurs, at-origin. This facility will take Cacao of Excellence to new heights." 



The opening ceremony concluded with the sensory analysis of chocolates from three different countries, guided by Ed Seguine of Seguine Cacao, Cocoa and Chocolate Advisors, and Guittard Chocolate. Seguine emphasized how rich with different flavors chocolate can be while promoting the countries and the smallholders in their ecological context.

AUR students have been privileged to work directly with Bioversity International and Cacoa of Excellence. In particular, the Cacao of Excellence program has directly inspired at least two MA theses in the recent past! You can read about one recent MA internship on the MA Food Studies homepage