The Cocoa Tree
Chuck Denney-Narrator (UT Institute of Agriculture)
Bethany Thouin came to Nashville to write songs. While she hasn’t given up entirely on that dream, she meantime has discovered another passion and talent.
Bethany Thouin (The Cocoa Tree)
“I’m a self-taught chocolatier. I went to the University of Google. I googled the word chocolate.”
Swirling liquid heaven much like an artist dabs paint, Bethany creates scrumptious chocolate truffles at her business called “The Cocoa Tree.”
“We have about 60 products at ‘The Cocoa Tree’ - 20 different types of truffle flavors. I name all my truffles for women who inspire me. And I get to tell those stories. And it’s interesting because now I’m doing the same thing thru chocolate that I wanted to do thru music.”
This ultra cool business near downtown Nashville now has a connection to an African nation more than 5,000 miles away. Soon ‘The Cocoa Tree’ could be working with crops grown in Liberia. Nearly three-fourths of the world’s cocoa comes from west Africa. Farmers grow this tree crop in tropical countries such as Liberia - home to Musu Flomo. She recently spent time at the UT Institute of Agriculture as part of a research exchange program. Musu wants to expand her countries’ cocoa market.
Musu Flomo (Liberia)
“My expectation was to learn more about the cocoa industry, and then take that idea back home to Liberia. That I will be able to train farmers in Liberia to improve the cocoa quality in my country.”
Dr. Michael Wilcox (UT Extension)
“We have a wide range of businesses that would potentially benefit from this research.”
Dr. Michael Wilcox works in economic development for UT Extension.
A frequent customer of “The Cocoa Tree,” he introduced Bethany and Musu on the Liberian’s stay in the states, and believes there’s a potential partnership here.
Dr. Michael Wilcox
“We’re trying to put Liberia in a position to sell beans to the US and companies in Tennessee as well as elsewhere. So it’s not a competing product. It’s a product that we need in order to be able to continue providing what so many people love in our chocolate products.”
“I get a lot of requests to meet with people, but as soon as I heard it was a women from Liberia who was wanting to help her countrymen, I was all over it.”
Bethany plans to name a new mango-flavored chocolate truffle for her friend Musu. Meantime in a country far, far away cocoa beans are harvested to supply “The Cocoa Tree” with its most-needed ingredient - chocolate.
And anyone would call this new business arrangement sweet.
NOTE: UT’s Dr. Wilcox has also traveled to Africa as part of this program.
It’s made possible by the Norman Borlaug (“bore-log”) Fellowship Program - and is a collaborative effort between the USDA and World Cocoa Foundation.