Chocolatá, Kathy D’Agostino, Birmingham Alabama


For the Love of Chocolate


By Hailey Bethke | Photography by Liesa Cole

Pause and envision the rich, silky sweetness of a delicately handcrafted chocolate. The humble cacao from which it originates is a spiritually rich fruit harvested by the Aztecs and Mayans as an offering to the gods. Cacao has continued to evolve over the centuries, taking on the form of chocolate along the way, but it has always led us back to a heart-centered place of receptivity and abundance. Chocolatá founder Kathy D’Agostino believes chocolate can satisfy our sweet cravings while serving a more profound purpose of healing and supporting sustainable farming.

Chocolatá is a bespoke chocolate shop in Birmingham, Alabama, opened by D’Agostino in 2017. Offering premium crafted and sustainably sourced chocolate bars, bonbons, and seasonal cacao products, Chocolatá is a rare Southeastern gem. With its beautifully branded packaging and elevated versions of your favorite chocolate confections, the shop could easily be found on a quaint street corner in Paris or New York City.

D’Agostino is no stranger to chocolate shops. “When I was a teenager, my parents encouraged us to get jobs to make our own spending money. I am one of four girls, all close in age, and fighting over babysitting jobs did not appeal to me,” she recalls. “I decided to work an after-school job at the chocolate shop around the corner from our home. I was fifteen at the time. I worked at the chocolate shop for almost four years. I learned everything about working with couverture (chocolate that has a high percentage of cacao butter), from tempering to using the molds and making ganache.”

Chocolatá, chocolate, vie magazine

The chocolatier also credits her eye for design to her time spent in Japan as a young adult. “I learned so much by being immersed in a culture with such an acute attention to detail and presentation,” she explains. “My parents’ encouragement to work at a young age was also my foundation for a strong work ethic, and my experience working at the chocolate shop showed me that work can be fun. The owners there were the kindest people who made the work environment a joy to be a part of.”

She also reminisces on her childhood, recalling how her mother always filled her Easter basket with the finest chocolates she could find. “I continued that tradition with my children, and now I fill my grandson’s basket with the fine chocolate I make at the shop. He’s just beginning to figure out that I am the Easter Bunny!” D’Agostino laughs.

Chocolatá, Kathy D’Agostino

Her commitment to luxury chocolate goes well beyond the bar, beginning before the cacao even arrives at the shop in Birmingham. Chocolatá prides itself on working with sustainable farms in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, many of which are certified B Corporations. “I believe we are all connected; our relationships with everything we do in life have an effect,” D’Agostino shares. “Sourcing our products from companies that practice sustainability is playing a part in creating a better world. Even though it seems very small, we all make decisions that impact others. And from my personal experience, the products made by companies who care about how they are practicing are always better.”

Once the cacao arrives at Chocolatá, crafting a bar or bonbon begins. “The bean-to-bar process is quite detailed, with eight to ten steps,” D’Agostino explains. “We use couverture, which is the final product of the bean-to-bar process. In order for it to be considered ‘fine chocolate,’ it must have a minimum of 33 percent cacao butter and be made with only a few ingredients: cacao, cacao butter, and pure cane sugar. Some but not all of our products have sunflower lecithin for the purpose of fluidity while working with it,” D’Agostino explains.

Chocolatá, Kathy D’Agostino

For those unable to visit Chocolatá’s gorgeous store in Birmingham, Alabama, a full array of fine chocolates and other products is available online.

She continues, “Our process of working with couverture includes melting and tempering it. Tempering creates the crystallization necessary for the final product to be superior in texture and appearance, with a snap when it breaks and a shine. It is a lengthy process to bring the couverture to a very specific series of temperatures while also agitating it. I always say if it were not for this tedious detail in making chocolates, I believe there would be a chocolate shop on every corner.”

Making one batch of a recipe for Chocolatá’s signature bars can take between three to six hours. These include flavor combinations like the Gaia bar, which spotlights 63 percent dark chocolate from the Dominican Republic alongside dried cantaloupe and roasted hazelnuts; the Summer Nights bar is equally as impressive, calling upon seasonal flavors like lavender and blueberry sea salt to combine with candied oranges and sunflower seeds. Of course, Chocolatá also offers plenty of classic flavor profiles.

“Depending on the bar, we make approximately 36 to 48 bars per batch,” D’Agostino shares. “All of our bonbons with a ganache filling take two days to complete, as the ganache has to set overnight before we can cap it with tempered chocolate to seal it. It is a time-consuming art but well worth the effort.”

Birmingham alabama, chocolate maker, vie magazine

The final product is a lovingly crafted chocolate that is almost too pretty to eat. Each signature bar contains an intention and energy that complements the flavors inside. “I encourage people to try every one of them at some point, even if the flavor profile doesn’t appeal to them,” D’Agostino says. Tasting any chocolate offers a unique experience to be revered.

“Chocolate was once used in ceremonies for its medicinal healing power. When we crave chocolate, we are subconsciously looking for the healing power that cacao brings,” she continues. “At Chocolatá, we like to think of our chocolate ‘fix’ as a form of self-love. To love ourselves is vital nourishment to our bodies and souls. There are many ways to discover our subconscious layers if we allow our experiences to be open without preconceived expectations. We hope our chocolate bars transport you to a place of true self-discovery and healing through a multidimensional tasting experience.”

homemade chocolate, vie magazine,

According to D’Agostino, the most rewarding part of founding Chocolatá is witnessing customers experience absolute joy when they cross the threshold of the shop. “To watch people enjoy their experience at Chocolatá is like a little gift every time, and something I could have never imagined before opening our doors in 2017,” she says. The past seven years have allowed D’Agostino to share her love affair with chocolate with the Birmingham community and beyond; she has collaborated with countless small businesses in the Southeast, ranging from Amavida Coffee Roasters to Bronnie’s Brittle, and supported local artists to design special-edition packaging.

“Throughout this journey, I have learned to enjoy the ride,” she reflects. “I try not to put too many expectations on the future of Chocolatá and instead focus on allowing it to grow at a healthy pace while always exploring new avenues to share the Chocolatá experience.”

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To experience Chocolatá for yourself, visit the shop on 37th Street in Birmingham, Alabama, or head to to shop D’Agostino’s latest creations and seasonal flavors online. Be sure to follow along on Instagram @chocolata_bham.

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