For many people, dessert is the best part of a meal. For the Brazilian-born Kelly Dantas, American-style desserts too often ended a meal on the wrong note. But rather than suffer silently or – Heaven forbid – skip dessert entirely, she turned entrepreneurial and opened her own dessert shop in Cos Cob called Chocoylatte Gourmet.
“I started this concept in 2014 and it took five years of development,” she recalled. “And it started because of my frustration about desserts here in the United States – they were either too sugary or they were overloaded with bad quality chocolate. Or you would go to places and you find the same thing over and over: muffins, pastries, tiramisu. I wanted to bring something different.”
Based at 121 E. Putnam Ave., Chocoylatte Gourmet had its grand opening on July 25 with a ribbon cutting ceremony officiated by Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei and State Representative Fred Camillo. The store is airy and bright, with eclectic décor including floral tiling, orange seats and cushions and a chandelier lined with teacups. But the primary focus for Dantas’ Chocoylatte Gourmet is chocolate – and while some people claim that they search the world for the right ingredient, Dantas actually pursued a global odyssey to score the best possible product.
“I tried 180 suppliers from all over the world and wanted to find the highest quality chocolate available,” she continued. “I spent about $25,000 testing chocolate. We work with nine suppliers. Everything you try here has a different taste because they are made with different kinds of chocolate: White, 65%, 75% or 100% cacao.”
Dantas’ pursuit of the perfect chocolate experience has even taken on a Willie Wonka-worthy attraction: Visitors coming into Chocoylatte Gourmet encounters an enclosed machine that offers a mini-waterfall of melted chocolate in a continuous and delicious cascade.
“That is a symbol of what we are,” Dantas said. “We don’t use chocolate powder, we use chocolate for melting. In order for us to do recipes for desserts and drinks, we have to melt the chocolate to use it. There is 100 pounds of chocolate in that machine, but we have machine in the back for that use. The one in the lobby for display.”
However, Dantas insists that Chocoylatte Gourmet is not just a chocolate shop. Her menu includes non-chocolate goodies including coffees, teas, juices, cakes, cookies and sandwiches, with gluten-free and lactose-free options upon request. All of the offerings are freshly made on the premises, which requires an extra-early bird commitment to baking and preparation.
“We come at four o’clock in the morning,” Dantas explained. “I don’t complain because this is my dream. But, yes, it is a lot of work.”
Dantas is also planning to roll out a merchandise line with the Chocoylatte Gourmet brand aimed at both the consumer and corporate markets. She added that the Cos Cob store will be the first in a planned series of locations.
“Yes, this is a kind of lab,” she said. “We are trying everything that was on my mind and in all the years of research. We are listening to customers to see what they have to say and to change the recipes where it is needed. When we are ready, then we will expand.”
Remarkably, Dantas has stayed focus on Chocoylatte Gourmet while maintaining another company – although she has no problems playing favorites among her operations.
“I have another company that does construction,” she explained. “I do construction for a living, but this is my baby.”