Ethereal Confections: Crafting Sweet Magic, from Bean to Bar

What started as a love for chocolate and a fresh approach to chocolate making has blossomed into a hub of activity on Woodstock’s Square.

Mary Ervin (left), Michael Ervin (center) and Sara Miller (right) founded Ethereal Confections in Woodstock. They continue to expand their mission with a cafe and events space.

Come for a Caramel Inferno truffle or a cup of drinking chocolate, stay for a chocolate-making class or a fireside chat. Whatever your pleasure, Ethereal Confections, 140 Cass St., is sweetening Woodstock Square with its specialty chocolate and community-focused atmosphere.

Founded by Sara Miller and brother-sister team Mary and Michael Ervin, Ethereal Confections was born from a love for chocolate and a desire to bring the craft of chocolate making to the owners’ McHenry County hometown.

Ethereal is 100% bean-to-bar, meaning their chocolate comes from sustainably and ethically produced cocoa beans sourced in South and Central America – specifically Haiti, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Ecuador.

Carmel Inferno Truffle

“It’s important to us to build relationships with individual farmers and with farmer organizations,” says Michael. “And our suppliers care as much about the quality of the beans as we do.”

These personal relationships benefit not just Ethereal but the farmers themselves.

“Ethereal’s purchases help our partners meet their farming needs,” says Michael. “Organic certification costs money, as does carrying proper equipment.”

Ethereal’s commitment to quality can also be found in the cafe, where everything down to the ingredients is made in-house. It is a thorough process but, to Miller and the Ervins, it’s what keeps Ethereal’s products consistent and unique.

“Our fermentation process and the lack of added sugars or dairy makes the flavor of our chocolate stand out,” Michael says.

Customers can taste the difference in any number of signature drinks, including a Peanut Brittle mocha and a There’s Always Money in the Banana Stand cocktail. In addition to drinks, The cafe serves breakfast and lunch food and an array of sweet treats and snacks.

Peanut Brittle mocha

Ethereal’s umbrella also encompasses two wedding and event spaces. The Loft, located upstairs from the cafe, hosts intimate events for up to 80 guests. Courthouse Square, across the street, opened this past September and offers space for up to 150 guests in Woodstock’s Old Courthouse Center. Guests also have a chance to tour the Old Sheriff’s House and Jail, which is connected to the Old Courthouse and offers memorable photo opportunities. Ethereal’s speakeasy, Emerson and Oliver, is located in the cafe’s basement and features live music on Fridays and Saturdays. There’s also a rentable commercial kitchen.

“It’s about creating excitement through food and food experiences,” says Michael. “From making Valentine’s Day chocolates for friends to selling at farmers markets, to where we are today, we want to be involved in the best parts of people’s lives. That’s at the core of what we do.”

Every chocolate item at Ethereal Confections is handcrafted in Woodstock with beans that are sourced directly from South and Central America.

While Ethereal itself has been around for a while now, it continues to expand, both in community offerings and a commitment to the overall mission.

“We want to make Woodstock even more of a creator space than it already is,” says Ervin. “Things keep growing and growing, and I hope they always will.”

Ethereal Confections is open Sunday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturdays until 11 p.m.