As I shuffle into the house after shoveling the latest snowfall, I always find myself taking a trip down memory lane. Back in the day, after hours of playing in the snow, my mother would always beckon me back indoors with a steaming cup of hot chocolate.
Sweet, creamy, and infused with love, my taste memory had me convinced for many years that my mom made the best hot cocoa in the world. Which is, of course, as it should be… at least until you get to be a grown-up.
When I started making my own hot chocolate, I learned that most mixes are really comprised of far more sugar than chocolate. And, even though they’re made with powdered milk, it always helps to mix them with warmed milk or cream to get that deliciously creamy consistency. Once I’ve mixed up the cocoa, I tend to embellish it with pinches of cayenne pepper and cinnamon rather than marshmallows, and I’ve gotten quite a bit pickier about my chocolate. In fact, my favorite chocolate these days is darker. And richer… And about as local as any chocolate is going to get.
Although I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I encountered my first Omanhene chocolate bar, I can tell you that I’ve been loyally using their products for the past 4-5 years. Their baking chocolate rivals the best of the best, and their cocoa powder has a distinctively rich flavor that I’ve not found in any other brands. And I’m not the only one raving about their products.
The London Financial Times has described Omanhene chocolate as "the finest in the world." Similarly, The New York Amsterdam News gave them the highest of praise, stating, "Like a fine wine, chocolate lovers have described its tantalizing flavor as 'sublime' and 'extraordinary'."
Needless to say, I was delighted when Steven Wallace, the Founder and President of Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company, offered to chat with me about chocolate. As we talked, Wallace gave me an education about cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, and the labeling laws which dictate the minimum contents for his “dark milk chocolate” bar, which is comprised of whole cream and over 30% pure chocolate liquor. If his passion for chocolate is obvious, his dedication to the people of Ghana is even more astounding.
Wallace isn't from Africa. In fact, he grew up in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. And his love affair with Ghana, Africa began when he traveled there as a high school exchange student at the age of 16. After graduating from law school, Wallace wracked his brain for a way to return -- and give something back -- to Africa. His solution? Chocolate.
Ghana is home to over 600,000 small, family-owned cocoa farms which produce some of the best cocoa beans in the world. So, Wallace questioned, why couldn't they produce the best chocolate and export it?
“There’s an ascendancy in Ghana that’s very exciting,” Wallace comments, “To see them transiting from a 3rd world country into a first or second world country in a generation or two. It’s fascinating. So many things are percolating there – socially, culturally, academically…”
I can tell by the tone of his voice that Steve Wallace is just as excited about the economics of his business as I am about the flavor of his chocolate. But, he’s also seriously stoked about the quality of the product Omanhene produces.
“Manufacturing the chocolate at its point of origin means you get a fresher flavor.” Wallace explains, “Cocoa beans lose a lot of their magic on the harsh voyage across the ocean.”
By manufacturing his chocolate directly in Ghana, Wallace found that they could, within a matter of days, take fresh cocoa beans, ferment them in the traditional manner (between banana leaves on the forest floor), then dry the beans in the warm African sun before roasting them in a factory that was just miles from where the beans themselves were grown. This locally based process not only provides Omanhene with a superior product of single-bean-origin, but also assists in keeping more of the profits within Ghana for reinvestment.
At one point in the conversation, Wallace made a simple statement that struck me as being particularly profound “We begin and end with the cocoa bean,” he said.
Somehow, that seemed to say it all.
Interested in making your own fantastic hot chocolate mix using Omanhene cocoa?
Lo’s Spicy Homemade Hot Cocoa
3 cups nonfat dry milk powder
2 cups powdered sugar
1½ cups Omanhene cocoa powder
1½ cups chopped white chocolate
¼ teaspoon salt
cayenne pepper and cinnamon
Whisk together all ingredients in a large bowl. Working in two batches, pulse the ingredients in a food processor until the chocolate is finely ground. The mix can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
To make hot cocoa, heat one cup of milk until it begins to bubble around the edges. Place 1/3 cup of the cocoa mix in a mug (along with a pinch each of cayenne pepper and cinnamon) and stir in the hot milk. Top with whipped cream and serve.
5441 S. 9th Street
The Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company
Milwaukee, WI 53221
If you’re looking for Omanhene products, it’s worthwhile to note that Anodyne Coffee Roasting Company carries the full complement of Omanhene offerings, including their newest product -- mocha, raspberry and cinnamon hot cocoa mixes.
Anodyne Coffee Roasting Company
2930 South Kinickinnic Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207