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 the cocoa and chocolate industries, especially West African political economy, the US artisanal market, and chocolate marketing and advertising. Her recent book, Cocoa, explores the power and politics of cocoa and chocolate. In addition to other writings, she is author of the series, "I am a cocoa farmer" for ConfectioneryNews, which profiles people who farm cocoa for a living. In 2018, Kristy moved to Accra, where she is a full-time researcher, working on her next book on value addition and innovation in cocoa and chocolate across sub-Saharan Africa. Kristy is Co-Founder of the Cocoapreneurship Institute of Ghana, and Affiliate Faculty in African Studies at the University of Washington.

Beyond her love of chocolate, Kristy has a passion for the polar regions, and has worked and traveled in Antarctica and the Arctic. 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 she relocated to West Africa, Kristy raced sailboats in the Puget Sound, where she also spent a lot of time in a dry suit as a cold-water PADI Divemaster. She doesn't miss the freezing cold water at all and is very happy to be back living in the tropics.