UW Bothell Annual Chocolate Festival
The UWB Chocolate Festival is the culminating event of Kristy Leissle's DC2 class, Chocolate: A Global Inquiry. Over the course of winter quarter, students in Dr. Leissle's class conduct a multi-disciplinary inquiry into chocolate, studying its history, manufacture, and industry, nutritional and health aspects, and representations in contemporary US culture, including advertising, literature, and film. We also conduct many tasting events, where students learn connoisseur sampling techniques and create flavor profiles and synesthetic (multi-sensory) descriptions of the chocolate experience. At the end of ten weeks, students are ready to present their detailed knowledge.
The festival is filled with chocolate, but it is also a place where visitors can learn most everything they wanted to know about it. Students choose a single-origin dark, milk, white, or Aztec flavored chocolate to present at the festival, preparing advertisements, posters, and flavor profiles that they share with visitors -- who are always surprised to discover the differences among artisanal and single-origin chocolates, whose flavor notes range from mushroom to pineapple to cinnamon. In additional to dishing out chocolate, students answer questions -- everything from "Is chocolate really a health food?" to "What is white chocolate, anyway?" These might be questions that visitors have long had on their minds, or that they take from a basket of prepared questions that greets them at the entrance. Invariably, festival attendees tell me that they never knew there was so much to learn about chocolate, and that they look forward the next festival so they can learn (and taste) even more. As an instructor, it is a gratifying moment when my students step into the role of expert and share all that they have learned about this extraordinary, complex, and beloved food.