Bachlelor of Arts (Hons.), Classics and Contemporary Studies, 1999
I am looking at bringing learning and earning, social enterprise and creativity back together again.
Spoiler alert. Michael Sacco becomes a chocolate maker by the end of this short bio.
In the mid-nineties, Michael Sacco enrolled at King’s and found what he loved in the Foundation Year Programme (FYP). So he just kept going on the same track.
“When I did my King’s degree people would ask me what I was going to do with a combined honours in Classics and Contemporary Studies,” he says. “And in about my third year I realized – who cares? I am doing this because I love it.”
There was so much that interested him. Even today he quotes Plato and Kierkegaard. But one field of study captured Michael’s fertile mind.
“In Contemporary Studies I got really passionate about the philosophy and politics of technology.”
Michael explored that passion further in his thesis for his master’s degree in Environmental Studies at York University. Not long after he discovered the technology that would allow him to put his theoretical studies into practice – a solar concentrator. It works much the same way a magnifying glass does by bending the light from the sun and focusing it, concentrating the energy. Where a magnifying glass can be used to start a small fire, the solar concentrator can be used to bake bread, make charcoal, even roast cacao, the raw material for chocolate.
Michael decided to head to Mexico to take the technology to a developing region. That trip was the next step on a journey of learning that began at King’s and continues today.
In Mexico he collaborated with Gustavo Esteva, a Mexican activist and founder of the Universidad de la Tierra in Oaxaca. And he learned from Ivan Illich, philosopher, priest and social visionary. Michael learned about the rich indigenous culture of Mexico, but more importantly how to work within it, rather than imposing technologies on it. The solar concentrator was central, providing a clean source of energy to roast cacao, a crop that for centuries has been central to the society.
“I am looking at bringing learning and earning, social enterprise and creativity back together again,” he says. “That’s what we do with Chocosol.”
Michael formed Chocosol (“sol” is the Spanish word for sun) in 2004 in Oaxaca. The company makes artisanal chocolate from organically grown cacao sourced from indigenous communities. The first thousand kilograms of cacao were roasted in a solar concentrator. He realized though that his home was back in Ontario. So he brought the company to Toronto, bringing with him what he calls the “wisdom of cacao”. He continues to study its place in Mexico’s indigenous culture while pursuing his PhD at Trent University.
Today Chocosol sells chocolate and other products, coffee for one, sourced from Mexican farmers and made in Toronto. But Chocosol also sells products, such as tortillas made from local Ontario ingredients. And while he will wax eloquent when talking about his primary product, Michael sees his company and its philosophy of local sourcing and clean energy as much more.
“Chocolate is not the answer. The big vision of Chocosol is to fight climate change through the vehicle of chocolate, coffee and tortillas.”