I’m Samantha Madell.

I live in a small country town (population 1,306) in Australia, which used to feel like the middle of nowhere – until Google came along with Google Scholar, Maps, and Earth and made my computer feel like the centre of the universe. So much to see and learn, so little time!

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I’ve had an interest in growing food for as long as I can remember, which prompted me to study agricultural science at university. I graduated with a B.App.Sci in systems agriculture in 1997.

At university I developed a particular interest in Third World agricultural systems, which, I later found, pairs intriguingly with a life-long love of chocolate. That’s because cocoa is a tropical crop, and the vast majority of the world’s cocoa is grown in “underdeveloped” (or over-exploited?) countries.

Back in 2003, my original goal was to learn enough to be able to make excellent chocolate, from whole raw cocoa beans, at a small commercial scale. The information-gathering was tricky enough, but the real killer turned out to be the red tape that our local council tied us up with. You can read about that unpleasant experience in my blog post: Mid-Western Regional Council and The Chocolate Factory.

In my path to chocolate enlightenment, each answered question seemed to throw up five more questions, and I became hungrier and hungrier for solid, factual information. Then I was hit by the realisation that much of the information about cocoa and chocolate in existing websites and books ranged from being clichéd and generally unreliable, to spectacularly wrong. It became clear that if I wanted detailed and accurate information, I’d have to work hard at sorting the wheat from the chaff (or, should I say, the nibs from the shells?). Now, having done the work for my own benefit, I’d like to share what I’ve discovered.

(In fact, I previously shared many of my findings online at The Chocolate Life forum – but I left in late 2010, and took my posts with me, when it became clear that “awkward” questions and blunt statements were unwelcome there. Much of that information will be reposted here.)

Over the years, my passion for seeking and sharing accurate information has brought me some excellent new friends, a handful of angry critics, and one significant falling out. Such is life, I suppose. My aim here is to write about things that matter to me – because goodness knows, I’ll never please everybody, so I might as well please myself.

When I’m not researching or writing about cocoa and chocolate, I’m usually out in the garden.

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