Episode 19: Emily Stone CEO of Uncommon Cacao

Episode description: Emily Stone is the new (and needed) kind of intermediary in the cocoa supply chain, a self-proclaimed ‘middlewoman’. She's positioned herself as a leader and innovator in the space by linking the craft / fine chocolate industry with an ever-growing portfolio of smallholder farmer partners in 6 Latin American and Caribbean countries, including indigenous communities in Belize and Guatemala. She's navigated organic certification models, antiquated commodity structures, and built a team of empowered changemakers - many of which women, all of this in favor of direct relationships, sustainable agroforestry landscapes, and centralized fermentation for high-quality fine flavor cacao. 

Eight years after co-founding Maya Mountain Cacao in 2010 (of which Uncommon Cocoa Group is the umbrella), Uncommon Cacao now connects more than 4,000+ direct relationships at origin with 150 chocolate companies across the world who import their certified organic dried cocoa beans to make single origin chocolates and confections. Studying sociology and Arabic at Georgetown University, she speaks Spanish and Q'eqchi Maya, and maintains economic justice, impact and transparency as canons of her work and life. She's appeared in Forbes, Huffington Post, and is a 2017 Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) 'Recognition of Excellence' winner for Outstanding Contribution at Origin in Sustainability of Fine Chocolate. 

Photo credit:  Erik Hammar

Photo credit: Erik Hammar

Themes discussed in this episode: 
- Where passion, serendipity, and Google searching collided to bring together Alex Whitmore of Taza and Emily
- Creating smallholder farmer forward systems
- Recognition of the hard work that farmers undertake daily and the longevity of the existence of their craft (cacao farming is not new)
- Things to consider as a chocolate maker requesting samples or considering a new origin for your line-up
- What to expect within an intermediary relationship, and what may or may not be consistent in your sourcing practices
- Impacts of quality and sustainability improvements on farmers and radical transparency
- Commodity market's price fall and how that image is affecting specialty cacao (which is not getting less costly, especially as origin countries continue to develop); the importance of de-commoditization
- How your investment - regardless of purchasing power - in premium cacao translates
- Meeting consumers where they are; Innovation in fine chocolate; clusters, bark, drinking chocolate, new product development

Links related to this episode:

Uncommon Cacao's 2016 Transparency Report

Gualberto and Adriano of Oko Caribe, Dominican Republic and their commitment to reliable harvests
Daniel O'Doherty Founder and lead consultant at Cacao Services
Mutari drinking chocolate in Santa Cruz, California 
Versions of craft milk chocolates (and many award winning); French Broad's Malted Milk 44%, Chequessett Chocolate's Mass Bay Milk Bar 45%, Sirene Chocolate's Dark Milk bars 

Photo credit: Uncommon Cacao in Tumaco Colombia

Photo credit: Uncommon Cacao in Tumaco Colombia

Lauren WKND