Tag Archives: Specialty Coffee

Re-Thinking Cocoa From The Ground Up

Specialty cocoa products for the specialty coffee industry

In 1991, our founder was a newcomer to the world of cocoa processing; he had many questions for this centuries-old industry:

  • Why were there so few “clean ingredient” statements on products that should be simple and natural?
  • Why were there no “single origin” cocoa products showcasing attributes of cocoa beans cultivated in a particular country?
  • Why were cocoa-growing countries content to export only raw beans, allowing other countries to capture the profit sitting atop the cocoa value chain?

And so, years before the terms “fair trade” or “corporate social responsibility” held any currency, our founder started a modest cocoa company named after the Ghanaian word for “paramount king.” He named the company, Omanhene.

All About Cocoa: Omanhene’s Hot Cocoa History. Post 1 of 2.

Several customers have asked to learn more about Omanhene’s Natural Cocoa Powder and Hot Cocoa Mix, both of which are gluten free, kosher and make terrific hot chocolate.  So this marks the first of a two-part post related to all things cocoa.

Living in Wisconsin, I know a thing or three about frigid weather.  Nothing says “warm me up” better than a frothy mug of hot cocoa topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. And I don’t mean some artificial concoction filled with multisyllabic chemical ingredients that attempts to replicate the mouth-feel and aroma of the real deal. I mean honest-to-goodness hot cocoa made with pure, natural cocoa powder processed at the source. No artificial preservatives or flavors, no artificial colorants and no chemical aroma-enhancers.

Omanhene hot cocoa mix was originally designed for use by a very demanding commercial sector: the specialty coffee industry.

Ever meet an artisan coffee roaster? These people are tough customers! They have keen palates and their working life revolves around discerning fine, almost imperceptible gradations of flavor. They’ll talk in term of building flavors on the tongue, how a particular coffee finishes, and mouth-feel. As I was saying, Omanhene Hot Cocoa Mix was originally designed for the premier coffee trade and was first used behind-the-counter by baristas preparing specialty coffee beverages for the public.

Omanhene Hot Cocoa as served in a café

Gorgeous frothed cream artwork afloat a cup of Omanhene Hot Cocoa


I developed the recipe in conjunction with one of the top specialty coffee roaster/retailers in the country, a company that achieved renown with their superb dark-roasted coffee. This particular company is driven by an almost maniacal devotion to sourcing premium ingredients. They wanted an authentic, bold hot cocoa that would serve as the base beverage for their specialty coffee drinks such as mochas and frappacinos.

It took almost no time at all to determine that a pure hot cocoa mix (a combination of natural, non-alkalized cocoa powder and sugar — with no other ingredients, no artificial flavors, colors nor additives) would likely deliver the sort of authentic, unadulterated chocolate indulgence that would stand up to their seriously strong, session-roasted coffee. The result was Omanhene Hot Cocoa Mix, a recipe developed specifically for the demanding specialty coffee trade and now prized by acclaimed and award-winning baristas the world over (true fact — there are competitions annually).

A few years after our commercial hot cocoa mix was introduced, our specialty coffee customers asked if we could package our one-of-a-kind cocoa mix for consumer sales. Customers wanted to share Omanhene Hot Cocoa Mix with others as a gift. We were happy to oblige. The tins of Omanhene Hot Cocoa Mix available on our website and in retail stores contain the exact same recipe used by some of the top coffee retailers in the world. Of course, these retailers have fancy espresso machines that can aerate and froth a mug of hot cocoa mix with more élan than most people can do at home with a spoon, but the recipe is the same.

Next blog post: Technical considerations related to cocoa powder including dutched cocoa and alkalization, solubility, appearance and taste.