Move over, “No Fun City.” Summertime in Vancouver means the shorts are out, the sunglasses are on and, if you add a visit to a local ice cream shop—especially on Sunday’s National Ice Cream Day—you have what could add up to the perfect lazy afternoon. If you prefer to keep dairy-free, finding a suitable scoop that delivers the fresh creaminess of Italian gelato can be a tall order. That is, until your first visit to Chinatown’s Umaluma.
Touted for its dairy-free, plant-based gelato, Umaluma makes the fresh, all-natural ice cream that health-conscious Vancouverites have been yearning. Here, each handcrafted scoop is smooth and dense the way gelato should be. With over 35 flavours developed in the past two years, the rotating menu also includes fruit-based sorbettos and specialty offerings such as the Arosto Francese, a coffee-flavoured gelato made with real espresso from local company Milano Coffee Roasters (thoroughly enjoyed by this writer).
“We went through at least 30 different brands of coconut milk from all over the world,” Ian Bruce, who continues to work full-time in the software industry, explains. To make Umaluma a reality, he enlisted the help of Derek Rohde (head of production) and Andy Kieselbach (head of research and development) to build a formula that consisted of plant-based, neutral ingredients—a creamy base that was balanced enough for the main flavours to shine through (and not over-sweetened, as regular ice cream can be). It took 18 months, but the final result was a combination of hemp-seed milk (made in-house), coconut milk, and cashew butter. The gelato is served in a waffle cone that’s also made in-house (organic buckwheat flour, maple syrup, olive oil, coconut oil, salt, and organic brown sugar).
Celebrating its second anniversary this month, the small business has proven that real growth comes through tenacity and playing the long game. Since expanding its wholesale side (it supplies to select Whole Foods Markets in the Lower Mainland and collaborates with local restaurants including Surrey’s Afghan Kitchen, Cuchillo, and Cactus Club Cafe), Umaluma has made huge strides in the retail area too. This summer, it partnered with the Vancouver Park Board at Jericho and Kitsilano beach concession stands.
“It may be controversial,” Bruce notes. “But I think people are recognizing that dairy, especially the modern factory farms, produce milk and other products that are not necessarily good for your health.” umaluma.com
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