COCOA ASANTE: FROM GHANA WITH LOVE
By: Jenny Webster
Ella Livingston, co-owner and founder of Cocoa Asante, grew up in Ghana, but she had to travel to Tokyo to become inspired to start a Ghanaian chocolate business in Chattanooga.
“In Ghana, we owned cocoa farms on my mother’s side of the family,” she says. “Part of my family worked as cocoa farmers, but it never really meant anything until I connected the dots in college. Since I moved to the U.S. at age three, I didn’t feel so connected [to the farming tradition].”
However, Livingston’s family did keep up the traditions of language and food — perhaps preparing her for a spark of serendipity when she studies in Japan as a college student.
“While I was in an upscale district of Tokyo, I walked into a store and bought some chocolate,” she recalls. “It cost about 20 dollars, but it was the most delicious chocolate I ever tasted in my entire life. I still remember the experience seven years later. I remember the customer service…how they wrapped the package so nicely…how they bowed when they gave it to me.”
In a flash, Livingston put together her family’s background as chocolate growers to create a new business concept: “Why don’t I combine what we do at home and have my own chocolate factory?”
So Cocoa Asante was born.
They don’t have a factory yet, but from their space in the INCubator on Cherokee Boulevard, they’re whipping up bonbons of all kinds, inventing new flavors monthly or more frequently. They source their chocolate from a dealer who gets it from Ghana, and are working on creating a direct connection to the family farms. They also use local, clean ingredients whenever possible. In the works this year: a chocolate bonbon featuring Chattanooga Whiskey
The Total Package
Chattanooga has plenty of amazing chocolatiers, so what sets Cocoa Asante apart? Livingston goes back to the three elements she recognized in her experience in Japan:
- See the package
- See the product
- Taste the product
To that end, she strives to create an entire experience, encompassing packaging, visuals and flavor. Cocoa Asante chocolates are packaged beautifully and decorated with colored cocoa butter for elegant surface designs. Some of the bonbons — also called truffles — are shiny and almost jewel-like. They’re the perfect gift for an occasion that needs to be extra-meaningful. This time of year, that might mean a Father’s Day present or a treat for members of a wedding party.
Taste the Magic
To find delicious Cocoa Asante bonbons near you, visit Joli Jardin Flower Shop, or be on the lookout for Livingston’s warm smile at the Chattanooga Market every Sunday. You can also place an order on the website at cocoaasante.com (delivery is free of charge in Hamilton County, and delivery radius varies depending on time of year). To see the latest truffle varieties and catch up on any sales, visit @cocoaasante on Facebook.