“Best chocolate in the world!” the president of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, announced to onlookers in Santa Monica’s Espresso Cielo, as he took a bite out of a piece of Omanhene chocolate.
Mahama visited the café Thursday night specifically to try products made with Omanhene cocoa, a brand of chocolate manufactured locally in Ghana using only Ghana-grown cocoa beans.
Espresso Cielo is one of the only caf√©s on the West Coast that exclusively uses the Milwaukee-based company’s cocoa. And though Espresso Cielo’s owner, Diane Maler, was out of town, her staff was prepared to make Mahama feel at home.
“It’s really cool to have him here and to be making drinks for him,” said barista Tom Kim, who mixed up some mochas for Mahama.
Mahama’s primary focus while in Los Angeles was to promote the new “Made in Ghana” initiative by showing the global impact of Ghanaian products, people and services. So in addition to visiting USC, UC Riverside and attending a dinner hosted by the World Affairs Council, Mahama stopped into Espresso Cielo.
President and founder of Omanhene, Steve Wallace, was in attendance for Mahama’s visit to the shop and was very honored to be part of the trip. “I am thrilled to have him here,” Wallace said.
Wallace explained his love for Ghana began when he was a teenager on an exchange program. His host father had three wives and 21 children and he “stepped right in as number 22.” He thought a lot about Ghana after that trip and knew he wanted a career that would allow him to stay close to the country.
“I knew food, loved the food business and I knew [Ghana] grew the finest cocoa beans … When you ask people where the best chocolate comes from they will say Switzerland, Belgium, France. But how many cocoa trees have you seen in Zurich? None. So I thought we should have a competitive advantage by producing in the country of origin. It prevents those beans from being fumigated. And those beans from other countries lose a lot of their magic in the trip to their manufacturing destination.”
Wallace stands firmly behind the reputation of Ghana’s chocolate. “It’s the finest chocolate in the world. It has a very good flavor. It is very disease-resistant naturally. It’s the secret sauce that makes our hot cocoa and other cocoa items so great.”
Wallace was especially pleased to be at Espresso Cielo, as he believes it to be the company’s “archetypal perfect customer.”
“It’s just as exciting as it could be. It’s right here by the beach. And Diane is a wonderful entrepreneur. Couldn’t be more pleased to have her be our introduction to the coffee world here in Santa Monica.”
Wallace said that places like Espresso Cielo care a lot about the quality of their coffee, “so when drinks like mochas, that are basically hot chocolate with a shot of espresso, are made, you should care as much about that hot chocolate as the espresso.”
Omanhene is a small company that does not do a lot of advertising, so they really depend on word of mouth to get their name out.
“And in this case one of the baristas [at Espresso Cielo] worked in New York at a caf√© that used our hot cocoa mix and brought it out here … It’s usually the baristas who are the ones that pour the shots, make the drinks, who know our product.”
Wallace said those baristas can be some of the most demanding customers in the world.
“They have very high standards and I love them for that. If they do a good job then a customer who comes in and buys a cup will be happy at that point. And that makes me happy.”

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