The holidays are a time where individuals enjoy many large meals and delicious desserts with friends and family, but for those suffering with food allergies, these meals can often prove difficult and lead to tasty treats being missed out on. This was the inspiration behind Chapel Hill-based company, Chocolatay Confections. Owners Matthew and Danielle White grew up with a love of sweets that they carried with them into adulthood. They were both met with a challenge when their first born Tay was diagnosed with severe peanut and tree nut allergies, preventing him from enjoying desserts offered at family gatherings and holidays. “We both have a sweet tooth and enjoy eating desserts, we didn’t want our child to have to miss out on this wonderful part of life,” Danielle said, “so we were determined to figure out a way around it.”
While living in Brooklyn, Matthew enrolled in an online course through L’Ecole Chocolat to learn the basics of chocolate making and with a lot of practice found his true calling. He then taught Danielle and together they moved their growing family to North Carolina where you can produce chocolates from a certified-home kitchen. In 2014, Chocolatay Confections was officially born out of the Chapel Hill Farmers Market. Making chocolates requires daily problem solving, “thankfully chocolate can be very forgiving, allowing you to mold it over and over again,” Matthew said, “and the other good thing is that often times, even when the piece doesn’t turn out as you planned, it still tastes good.” The very first confection ever made for retail by Matthew and Danielle, which is still one of their best sellers, was their coconut bliss bar. “It has an organic chewy macaroon cookie, topped with fair trade dark chocolate ganache and hand-dipped in dark chocolate,” he said, “and not only does it have a delicious taste, but holds a part of Danielle’s Dominican heritage with the emphasis on the coconut and dark chocolate.” To this day, Matthew recommends that bar to customers and claims it as his personal favorite. “It will always have a special place in my heart because it was the launching point for the company,” he said, “but it also has a great flavor that can be enjoyed with just about anything, including a cup of coffee.”
A typical day at Chocolatay Confections involves lots of organization and planning ahead because each confection is hand-made by Matthew and Danielle, meaning no commercial machinery is used. “We always plan at least one week ahead of schedule, it’s definitely a labor of love with many moving pieces,” Matthew said, “we start the day by melting, which is also the most time consuming part, then the ganache has to set for 24 to 26 hours so it has to be made in advance.” Even though making confections can be a fickle medium because of many factors, including temperature fluctuations and humidity, Matthew and Danielle enjoy the challenge presented to them everyday and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. “We draw inspiration from the world around us, including farmers markets, travel destinations and even our customers,” Danielle said, “there is a lot of joy found in what we do, the relationships we build and the products we create that our customers love and enjoy.” Her personal favorite is the Milk Chocolate Sunflower Crunch Cup.
Their newest product, Hot Chocolatay Bombs, have been released just in time for the holidays! “We are very excited to have it available for the holiday and cold season,” Matthew said, “it is a hand molded chocolate sphere filled with our signature hot chocolate mix and topped with vegan, non-GMO marshmellows. Just pour some hot milk over it and enjoy the goodness!” They also released their Chocolate Salami last week, which is an Italian and Portuguese dessert that features 3 different flavored biscottis (gluten free), toasted pistachios, candied orange and lemon peel and, of course, chocolate. Gift tins and chocolate collections from Chocolatay Confections can be found in their online store as well as the Durham Farmers Market and Chapel Hill Farmers Market. They even make custom orders if you would like to design a gift box for that special someone!
Matthew and Danielle encourage shopping local for the holidays not only because it is an investment in the community, but because it provides an assurance that the products you are purchasing have been responsibly produced.
“We have personal relationships with each farmer and chocolate maker that we partner with. Some of our closest friends today started out as customers or fellow collaborators. A little piece of our heart goes out with each confection that our customers get because we have a very clear intention behind what we do,” Danielle said, “our products are made with integrity, just like other farmers and local businesses around the state.”
As members of our Got To Be N.C. program, you can easily find Chocolatay Confections and other local businesses to complete your holiday shopping list on the website above.
In the future, Matthew and Danielle hope to expand their local footprint by scaling up production and venturing into wholesale, which will be made possible when they are able to procure commercial equipment that will increase production and reduce manual labor. This year, their Coffee Caramel Bar was named a finalist for the 2021 Good Food Awards, a confection made with another local producer, Carrboro Coffee. The winners will be announced in January 2021. Join us in congratulating them on their success and sending some of their handmade chocolates to your loved ones this holiday season.