Pairing BC’s Natural Beauty with its All-Natural Frozen Desserts
- Why All-Natural Ingredients Matter
- Info about our list of BC natural ice cream & gelato (where we started)
- All-Natural Ice Cream and Gelato in British Columbia – The List
- Why This List Matters: The Challenges of Creating All-Natural Ice Cream & Gelato (and the benefit to you)
- Now you know the best: Here’s your next step
British Columbia, with its glacier-capped mountains, rugged coastline, and vast wilderness areas, is a land of raw beauty and outdoor adventure.
Yes, British Columbia is known for its stunning good looks, beckoning to visitors and locals alike. But there’s another kind of beauty found here, too—the beauty of locally made, natural-ingredient ice cream and gelato.
(Okay, we’ll admit it’s a stretch to compare the two, but remember: It is our entire purpose in life. ;)
What makes these scoops a match for our mountains? The makers’ commitment to real food and preserving the beauty of all-natural ingredients.
These places refuse the easy way out.
Why All-Natural Ingredients Matter
The problem with unnatural and commercial ice cream
If they aren’t bringing in tubs of frozen ice cream from the major commercial manufacturers, the vast majority of scoop shops (and by majority, we really mean it–nearly all of ‘em!) use powdered, canned, or other style of pre-made bases that include lab-created ingredients. These ingredients serve as fillers, stabilizers, flavourings, colours, and sweeteners.
If they don’t bring in bases, the rest will include some combination of the above ingredients to speed through production, increase quantities and prolong storage-life, increase colour and flavour, and (sorry to be harsh, but) dumb-down the craft behind what was once an artisan treat.
No wonder so many of us feel a tummy ache after having a scoop.
The beauty of all-natural ice cream and gelato
But our list of ice cream and gelato shops is filled with beautifully natural scoops, that complement the beauty of our province.
Really — what better pairing is there? After spending a day in awe of nature’s wilderness, cooling down with something naturally refreshing and locally made is a perfect match.
Imagine scoops of creamy vanilla bean, made with local BC dairy and sprinkled with flecks of real vanilla beans. Or rich, decadent chocolate gelato, churned with fair trade chocolate from a local chocolatier. How about tangy raspberry sorbet, made with berries from a BC farm and served in a crispy hand-rolled waffle cone?
Now imagine enjoying these beautiful treats with the beautiful scenery of BC surrounding you.
The Parameters for Our Guide of Locally-made, All-natural Scoops
In this guide, we’re setting you up with just the places to visit to find your perfect scoop. While we discovered some fantastic market vendors who scoop at festivals and events, we wanted to pin down brick & mortar shops that are easy to find for a “cold one” post adventure.
In our first draft, we had a much bigger list. Through subsequent edits and ongoing research, it’s pared down from the original, which means we ended up nixing a few places that were close to making it, but missed a few check-boxes. Our research included digging into customer photos, reviews, write-ups, ingredient labels, websites, etc.
Disclaimer (our parameters for what counts as all-natural ice cream in this list):
Other than Gina’s Gelato (which we own, so we know everything that goes into our gelato is handmade by Gina—no store-bought cookies, syrups, sprinkles, marshmallows, pre-made nut pastes, etc.), verification would be close to impossible for every single topping or mix-in used by each of these companies.
So while they may include mix-ins or additions (like sprinkles or cookies), or bring in cones which aren’t all-natural, these companies do declare that the ice cream or gelato itself is all-natural without anything lab-made.
Because it’s extremely rare to find even this level of commitment to natural ingredients in the world of frozen treats, they deserve a place on the list. Without the shortcuts most companies use, it isn’t easy to keep frozen desserts soft enough to scoop, warm enough to have flavour, and stable enough to not become encrusted in crystals like a Swarovski tennis bracelet.
To go beyond that level—to make not only the ice cream/gelato but also every. single. mix-in or topping from scratch as well as all the cones, cookies, cakes, and drinks with equal commitment to 100% natural and local-when-possible ingredients—welp, you’ve got yourself a unicorn.
(Yes, we just called our shop a unicorn. Allow us a moment while we pat ourselves on the back. :)
We’d love to find our herd, so if we missed a spot, let us know in the comments.
Second(-and-just-as-important) Disclaimer (what we expect from the readers of this list)
This is a blog post: Blog posts are different from research papers, new articles, etc. They can range from wildly unfounded to worthy-of-encyclopedia status. We’re aiming toward the latter end of the spectrum, but with a caveat that we know we don’t have all the info and have done our best with the info the companies have made public. We expect that everyone takes responsibility for their own consumption and will do their own research in addition to ours.
Back to the top
With all this in mind, from the coast to the interior, these are the spots that made the cut. Here’s where we recommend finding the elusive 100% natural, crafted-on-site, ice cream and gelato shops in British Columbia.
(Could this be your next road trip planner?)
All-Natural Ice Cream and Gelato in British Columbia – The List
- Cumberland – Love’s Ice Cream:Led by Sanchia Mooney, who also worked as a pastry chef for 30 years and made ice cream and sorbets during that span, her daughter Maia, who inspired her to create egg-free ice cream, and Rachel Moloney, who is dedicated to sourcing and selling only real food. This team takes pride in making their ice cream fresh with real-food, whole ingredients that are sourced locally and seasonally whenever possible. They actively support their local suppliers, farmers, and producers, promoting a healthy and thriving local economy. Using grass-fed local milk, Love’s Ice Cream offers a variety of hard scoop and dairy-free options as well as the New Zealand favourite “real fruit ice cream”. This treat uses a special blender that combines fruit with their handmade vanilla ice cream. The result is a made-to-order fruit-filled soft serve cone. In addition to their commitment to using local ingredients, Love’s Ice Cream actively participates in maintaining an eco-friendly community environment. They use recyclable post-consumer products and biodegradable napkins and cups.
- Nelson – Gina’s Gelato:You expected to find us here, right? Our art nouveau-deco gelateria specializes in what we call “intensely” handmade gelato, sorbetto, drinks, and desserts. We take pride in creating everything in-house, using 100% natural ingredients, sourced as locally as possible. From pouring the milk to cracking the eggs and grinding our own nuts for flours and pastes, we follow a true “from scratch” approach without shortcuts. (Well, we do use a modern KitchenAid mixer and gelato churner :).We’ve dedicated ourselves to “slow food” – the craft of naturally flavourful food made by hand. Supporting local producers and suppliers is part of our philosophy—eggs, BC Milk, vinegars and oils, beers and liquors, chocolate, coffee, and teas are supplied locally. By collaborating with these food artisans and businesses, we give you a tasty way to further support the local economy while showcasing the incredible flavours and ingredients available in our region. And similar to the old days, we use reusable goods. Our tasting spoons are golden dessert spoons that we wash, then polish by hand before setting back out — avoiding thousands of plastic tasting spoons from ending up in the garbage. During the off-season, we use our glassware for to-stay guests. We use paper for our to-go packaging, coupled with our biodegradable to-go spoons. Even our iced drinks get the paper treatment (hey, plastic to-go cups weren’t a thing in the early 1900s, right?). No Wi-Fi, but lots of hand-selected tunes from ragtime, foxtrot, swing, and Dixieland jazz bands to keep you entertained. Watch the day go by from our candlelit picture window, taking in the view of the mountains from our flower-filled, handmade patio. It’s a cheery spot to enjoy a scoop and forget modern life for a spell.
- Rossland – Mountain Nugget Chocolate Company is a sweet little chocolate shop in an equally sweet little town that also offers handmade ice cream with 100% natural ingredients, including local fruit. Though there’s not a ton of info on site or on socials, they’ve definitely made a point to share their commitment to creating treats without preservatives or stabilizers. (We’re guessing there’s not much info because we’re pretty sure it’s a one-woman shop with a small team and a lot on their hands—that hits close to home, so we get it!) For their ice cream, they keep it simple (and that’s best) with milk, cream, and organic cane sugar. Their sorbets are made with whole fruit, organic cane sugar, and water — just the way they should be. (Maybe swing in to learn more?)
- Squamish – Alice & Brohm: Alice & Brohm is an ice cream shop offering made-to-order “real fruit ice cream” inspired by New Zealand’s favourite way to enjoy a cone. Their focus is on creating a simple, custom-made experience with fresh berry in every bite. Inspired by fond memories of enjoying real fruit ice cream in New Zealand, founders Matt and Katie embarked on a journey to bring something unique to Squamish. They converted a 1972 Boler trailer into an ice cream shop, creating a Canadiana-inspired destination in Squamish. With a commitment to using locally sourced, fresh ingredients, Alice & Brohm takes pride in their made-to-order ice cream. Each order is prepared on-site, ensuring a fresh and flavourful scoop, without relying on artificial colours or flavours. Alice & Brohm partners with growers, farmers, and makers in the area, allowing them to support the community and celebrate local products.
Vancouver (understandably more options):
- Bella Gelateria: Bella Gelateria is a case study in how good handmade is, and has the awards to prove it (no, really, they’ve won awards). They embody the true artisanship of handcrafted gelato, creating each small batch using the best ingredients they can source. And we love that they are committed to preserving the old-world gelato tradition. They form partnerships with like-minded businesses such as Avalon Milk and Vancouver Island Sea Salt, sharing collaborations with companies that align with their artisan beliefs and values. Environmental consciousness is a top concern for these guys, too. They prioritize seasonal flavors, support local producers whenever possible, and choose eco-friendly containers. Through these sustainable practices, they strive to make a positive impact on the environment while delighting their guests with exceptional gelato, one small batch at a time.
- Rain or Shine Ice Cream: Rain or Shine Ice Cream, a Vancouver-based shop, is dedicated to using all-natural, locally sourced ingredients in their small-batch ice cream. With two locations in Vancouver, they produce their ice cream on-site, prioritizing sustainability and supporting local suppliers. Rain or Shine offers a diverse menu featuring inventive and seasonal flavours such as Oaty Mc Oat Face (this one made us literally laugh out loud; love the reference), Everything Bagel, Orange Sherbet, Sticky Chocolate Pretzel, and Rhubarb and Custard, alongside classic options like vanilla and chocolate. Inspired by their experiences with fresh, pure-ingredient ice cream during their travels, the founders of Rain or Shine aimed to bring that same quality to Vancouver. They recognized the need for eliminating chemical ingredients found in processed food, prompting them to create ice cream from scratch using sustainable whole ingredients sourced locally, seasonally, and organically. The shop actively works with small farmers in the lower mainland, supporting the community and reducing carbon emissions by minimizing transportation distances and waste. They use compostable packaging to further reduce waste and protect the environment. All dairy products used in their ice cream are supplied by Birchwood Dairy Farm, a family-owned farm not far from the outskirts of the city in Abbotsford. Rain or Shine’s commitment to using all-natural, locally sourced ingredients and sustainable practices, joined with efforts to strengthen community connections, make this one our top picks to enjoy a cone after exploring the city. We love seeing the handmade ice cream is elevated further by their focus on goodness and sustainability.
- Uno Gelato: Uno Gelato rounds out the list of crafters making small-batch, handmade gelato using local and natural ingredients. They favour real fruit flavours and healthier options, avoiding pre-made industrial gelato with pastes and powders. Their commitment extends to sourcing seasonal and organic ingredients from local suppliers like Avalon Dairy, Krause Berry Farms, and Vancouver Island Sea Salt. At Uno Gelato, the experience centres around their people and ingredients. They take pride in a daily menu that showcases their creativity. Leading the gelato craftsmanship is Columbia-raised “Maestro Gelatiere” Andrés Bermudez, who brings his expertise and heritage to handcraft exceptional gelato. Sustainability is a core value at Uno Gelato, as demonstrated through their packaging practices. They offer metal spoons for in-store sampling and biodegradable spoons for takeout. Customers have the option to enjoy their gelato in handmade waffle cones or bowls made fresh to order or opt for 100% recyclable paper cup containers. Their take-home pint packaging uses 100% recyclable paper cartons coated with a plant-based bio resin derived from renewable sugarcane. *Applause*
Actually, we applaud them all.
Who we’d like more info on:
If we were betting people, we’d place bets on the following making our list. We’d love to add the shops below to the list above, we need a little more info (details needed are listed in each description) before moving them up.
- Courtenay – Blue Spruce Ice Cream: We know the basics of what goes into each batch of Blue Spruce ice cream: whole milk, heavy cream, egg yolks, sugar. This is a great sign (egg yolks wouldn’t generally be needed if they were using artificial emulsifiers). We’re fairly certain they don’t use artificial colours since we’re spotting natural tones in their scoops. We’re also placing a bet that they don’t use artificial flavours as the founder forages for ingredients—that’s a great sign (but we know—not a guarantee!) of dedication to all-natural.What we need: We aren’t seeing info on which ingredients they avoid (artificial stabilizers, sweeteners, etc.). Since we’re not sure, we’ll keep an eye out for more info (or let us know ;).
- Powell River – Wild Scoop Ice Cream – We can’t get a ton of info since at the time of this writing, the site was throwing a 404 error. However, from scouring their Instagram page, we are going to place a bet that they meet all of our criteria based on the descriptions we read of their ice cream and after looking at the photos to see any tell-tale signs.If you’re going to take a leap of faith and try them out, it appears it may be a seasonal crew, so you check on hours first. And then let us know everything—we’ll update.
- Tofino – Chocolate Tofino: Like Blue Spruce in Courtenay, we’re definitely getting the all-natural vibe.What we know: They don’t use artificial colours or flavours; they use local ingredients and make their gelato on site. What we need: We’re not sure if they avoid unnatural stabilizers, fillers, artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers, etc., so if you know this spot, help us out!
The criteria for choosing which scoop shops made the list:
When choosing the top all-natural ice cream and gelato shops in BC, these are the factors we considered:
- First and foremost, we chose shops that focused on traditional ingredients (e.g. milk, cane sugar, eggs) for the foundation of each flavour.
- Second (but equally as important), the shops we looked for had to demonstrate the use of all-natural ingredients – no artificial anything in the gelato or ice cream.
- Third, they make their own ice cream and gelato (they don’t ship in bases or bring in ready-made product from manufacturers).
- Fourth – not really a criteria, but more of an effort: We tried to find shops located in different regions of BC to showcase as many criteria-focused destinations as possible throughout the province. Since it’s such a rarity, there aren’t many brick & mortar ice cream parlours or gelaterias undertaking a full-fledged (and intensely laborious!) commitment to 100% natural food ingredients.
- Fifth (or fourth, depending on how you perceive the last bullet point :), we tried to select companies that don’t rely on the use of colouring — even the natural kind. Why? Even though there is a small-but-growing percentage of food-colouring companies that are natural (hallelujah!), they are also more expensive.Now take that small percentage and reduce it much further: It’s extremely hard to source even natural food colouring that doesn’t include the addition of maltodextrin in their line. Although maltodextrin can be food-sourced, it is a highly-processed lab ingredient that can cause migraines, stomach issues, and who knows what else. We avoid it.
Exception: After two years and lots of email communication with formulators and scientists behind the “natural food colouring” companies, we did locate a company in Europe that only uses 100% actual food — no maltodextrin! — to create colours (beet root, spirulina, butterfly pea, matcha, ube, etc. with no other additions or ingredients) that we’re considering for our macarons.
However, being in Canada, the cost to source from overseas is extremely cost-prohibitive to using it at scale in gelato.
We put that research and knowledge into consideration for this list and nixed any companies that we can visibly see using colouring (e.g. “Lavender” ice cream wouldn’t actually be any shade of purple without food colouring) We are happy to add these shops back in if we can chat with them about what they are using to colour their scoops.
If you didn’t catch this disclaimer earlier, we’ll say it again:
Other than Gina’s Gelato (which we own, so we know everything that goes into our gelato is handmade by Gina – no store-bought cookies, syrups, sprinkles, marshmallows, pre-made nut pastes, etc.), verification would be close to impossible for every single topping or mix-in used by each of these companies.
So while the shops on the list may include mix-ins or additions (like sprinkles or cookies) which aren’t all-natural, these companies do declare that the ice cream or gelato itself is all-natural without anything lab-made.
To go beyond that level—to make not only the ice cream/gelato but also every. single. mix-in or topping from scratch with equal commitment to 100% natural and local-when-possible ingredients—welp, you’ve got yourself a unicorn.
(Yes, we just called our shop a unicorn. Allow us a moment while we pat ourselves on the back. :)
The Challenges of Creating All-Natural Ice Cream & Gelato (and the benefit to you)
Crafting all-natural ice cream and gelato requires skill and dedication. Unlike producers who rely on shortcuts and artificial additives, artisans who use natural ingredients embrace a more challenging path. They carefully balance and combine these elements, adjusting recipes and techniques to achieve the desired texture and flavors with improved quality.
Opting for all-natural ingredients in ice cream and gelato is a decision they make that comes with several compelling reasons:
- The dangers: Artificial additives found in many commercially produced frozen desserts can pose health risks, including obesity, diabetes, and certain cancers. By choosing all-natural alternatives, we minimize exposure to these potential hazards and prioritize our well-being.
- The benefits: Though it’s much more challenging to produce 100% natural desserts, ice cream and gelato artisans understand the health values and improved flavour created when sourcing ingredients directly from nature. Natural ingredients bring inherent nutritional benefits. Whole milk and real cream provide essential vitamins and minerals, while fruits and nuts offer fiber, antioxidants, and healthy fats; etc.
- Superior Taste: Using whole milk, real cream, whole eggs, real fruit and nuts, herbs, and natural oils and extracts enhances the flavor profile of ice cream and gelato. Natural ingredients provide an authentic and vibrant taste that cannot be replicated by artificial substitutes.
- Transparency and Authenticity: By using 100% natural ingredients, ice cream and gelato makers demonstrate a commitment to transparency and authenticity.
By choosing 100% natural ice cream and gelato, you not only benefit your own well-being but also support local artisans who pour their passion into every scoop. Making a conscious choice for unadulterated ingredients allows you to enjoy each bite with the knowledge that you’ve made a decision that supports healthier choices and the artisans who bring dedication to purity to their frozen treats.
Now you know what it takes to make a happy scoop — here’s your next step:
As you journey across British Columbia, take time to savour the ice cream and gelato from one of these ice cream or gelato shops. You’ll not only enjoy a delicious treat, but you’ll support local businesses that take pride in using the best ingredients and values artisanal craftsmanship and a passion for true indulgence.
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