Here at Union, Ayelada is a staple. It’s the frozen yogurt place to top all frozen yogurt places. Every friend group has that one person who knows all the flavors for every week and can recite them back to you whenever you need. Ask a room full of people if they want to take a trip to Ayelada and you’ll have a full car every time. Last week, I was lucky enough to interview Jim and Lisa, the owners of the famous Ayelada, and hear all about their adventures in frozen yogurt-ry. Oh and by the way, Ayelada means cow in Greek.

Where it all began...

Julia Portnoff

Jim and Lisa used to live in Manhattan, where he worked in finance and she was a physical therapist. However, Jim always had a love for food. He even thought of opening an Italian restaurant but it never seemed to pan out. A few years later, they moved to Massachusetts and were introduced to Go Berry, which also sells frozen yogurt. Jim and Lisa fell in love with Go Berry’s fresh, local product, so with the help of the Go Berry owner they opened Ayelada. The original location is in Pittsfield, MA and when the time came to expand, luckily for Union, Jim and Lisa choose Latham. Of course they hoped to reach a larger demographic of high schools, colleges, and universities, but, more importantly, Jim and Lisa were very interested in the local food opportunities this area has to offer.

The product...

Julia Portnoff

Ayelada’s motto is “fresh, local, & real!”, which is clearly something Jim and Lisa are very passionate about. Every morning, all batches are made on sight for that day and are loaded into machines behind the counter, which are continuously mixing the yogurt to make sure it stays soft. Ayelada only offers four flavors a week to ensure the best possible quality and to allow for constant variety. The original (a fan favorite and about 10-15% of the business) is always a deliciously consistent option. Lisa plans the flavors a month in advance to make sure she has all the ingredients ready for the week they're being featured. She'll also chose flavors based on what is seasonally available. That way everything can be as fresh as possible. Both Jim and Lisa are constantly looking for more local food opportunities to include in their flavor vault. That may mean looking on Facebook, doing research online, exploring costumer suggestions, or searching for the best place to find something when they have a new flavor idea. In many ways, owning Ayelada is a 24-hour job, but Jim and Lisa are very dedicated, calling it a labor of love.

The ingredients...

Julia Portnoff

To make the original, Jim and Lisa use milk delivered from a local farm, and a plain skim yogurt from Sidehill Farm in Massachusetts. This is unlike most frozen yogurt places that typically use a standard mix because the number one ingredient of these products is sugar or water. The number one ingredient of Ayelada’s yogurt is milk. Every flavor starts with the original and then has other ingredients added to it. All of the fruit flavors are made using real fruit, which Jim and Lisa either find fresh or get using a puree from France that contains no added sugars. Some of the more exotic flavors like the pumpkin, caramel, and cinnamon are made with a rooibis tea from Tea Guys, a vendor also located in Massachusetts. In the case of flavors like cider donut and cannoli, there are literal donuts and cannoli blended into the original yogurt. Even the toppings are as natural as they can find like the hand cut fruit, local honey, and local granola.

The end result...

Julia Portnoff

During the interview, I was able to try all the flavors of the week, a mango strawberry smoothie with original yogurt, and spoonfuls of honey and peanut butter. I was stuffed but I couldn’t stop myself from going back for more. I have been obsessed with Ayelada since the first time I tried it, but learning all about it has fueled my obsession even more. Jim and Lisa are wonderful people that are so committed to their business and their brand.

But while I was raving about them, they could not stop raving about Union. They love being involved on our campus whether it be for a charity event or providing a study break snack. They even want to have a flavor competition among the students on our campus (you can submit your flavor ideas here). So, moral of the story, if you haven’t been to Ayelada yet, stop what you’re doing and make the trip now. Once you take that first bite, you’ll finally understand what all the hype is about.