Healthier cocoa in the British countryside
The cocoa plant loves humid, tropical climates, which means that things that prey on those plants do too, and this is exactly why the future of healthy cocoa plants involves the cool, dreary farm country of England.
To back up a bit, demand for chocolate, and therefore cocoa plants that produce the seeds we make chocolate from, has been rising. But scaling up production has been complicated by the fact that cocoa plants are unusually susceptible to infections and fungus. In some cases, huge amounts of cocoa plants have been lost in epidemics, such as when disease destroyed half of Brazil’s cocoa plants a few years ago.
So as farmers and botanists cultivate their plants for say, higher seed density per pod, and they want to share those with other farmers, they need to make sure they’re not unintentionally spreading a pathogen at the same time. To help with this, plants are first sent to the International Cocoa Quarantine Centre in England, where, as the name implies, they are kept in quarantine until they’re determined to be safe to share with new farms.
So why in England? It’s a bit of an insurance policy in case a pathogen gets out of the designated greenhouse. Since it’s too cold for the cocoa to thrive outdoors there, it’s presumably too cold for the pathogens too.
Source: The Fate Of The World's Chocolate Depends On This Spot In Rural England by Ari Shapiro, The Salt