Kristy Leissle

Cultural Specialist

Kristy Leissle 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, traveled, and researched on all seven continents. Kristy holds degrees from Oxford University, University of Washington, and Boston College, and has been on faculty in Global Studies and African Studies at the University of Washington Bothell since 2009. Having earned her PhD by studying the cocoa-chocolate trade in West Africa and Europe, she is known in the industry as “Dr. Chocolate.”

From 2010-2013, Kristy served as Education Director of the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, where she developed the world’s largest public education program on chocolate. Within her studies of food, culture, and political economy, Kristy has examined the impact of Fairtrade on women cocoa farmers in Ghana; images of Africa in chocolate marketing; and the rapidly growing craft chocolate movement in the United States. Kristy gives regular talks on the chocolate industry and global food politics, including appearances on National Public Radio and the BBC, and in the documentary Bean to Bar. Her writing has appeared in Gastronomica, Alimentum, yes! magazine, The Conversation newspaper, Journal of African Cultural Studies, and Food, Culture, and Society (forthcoming), among others. Her current book, entitled Cocoa, examines the global political economy of the cocoa industry (Polity Press, forthcoming).

In addition to her chocolate expertise, Kristy has a passion for the cold climates. She has worked and traveled in Antarctica and the Arctic, and she teaches courses on the polar regions at UW. She was one of three human characters to feature in the BBC Nature documentary, Penguin Post Office, while working at Port Lockroy in Antarctica. Kristy races sailboats competitively and is a cold-water PADI Divemaster. When not on board a ship, she divides her time between Seattle, New York, Lagos, and London.

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