Cultural Specialist icon Cultural Specialist

Kristy Leissle

Kristy was born in Brooklyn, and left New York when she was 18 to get to know the world. Her travels took her first to Europe, and then to everywhere else: she has since lived, worked, and researched on all seven continents. Kristy holds degrees from Oxford University, University of Washington, and Boston College. Having earned her PhD by studying the cocoa-chocolate trade, she is known in the industry as “Dr. Chocolate.

Since 2004, Kristy has researched and published on the politics, economics, and cultures of cocoa and chocolate, especially in West Africa. She is the author of the book Cocoa, on power and politics in the chocolate industry, and creator of the series, “I am a cocoa farmer” for ConfectioneryNews, which profiles women and men who farm cocoa for a living across Africa. From 2018-2021, Kristy lived in Ghana, where she researched for her next book on Africa’s cocoa and chocolate innovators and co-founded the Cocoapreneurship Institute of Ghana.

Beyond her love of chocolate, Kristy has a passion for the polar regions. Kristy was one of three human characters to feature in the BBC Nature documentary, Penguin Post Office, while working as Deputy Postmaster of the British Antarctic Territory at Port Lockroy. Before relocating to Africa, Kristy was full-time teaching faculty at the University of Washington Bothell, and raced sailboats in the Puget Sound. She lives in Johannesburg.