When Honeymee opened in Koreatown last summer, it was an instant hit. The ice cream window lured Angelenos from all over town with its silky smooth “true milk” vanilla soft-serve topped with a chunk of honeycomb that dripped (almost indecently) with honey.
The concept, which was already a big hit in Korea, garnered immediate Instagram fame. Food writers gushed and some devotees (me included) excitedly declared it “the best soft-serve ever,” which to be fair, is not a hard prize to win as the art of soft-serve is still very much in its infancy. Riding the wave of foodie fame, Honeymee has since opened four more locations from Sawtelle Japantown to Gardena with more in the works.
With that kind of success, there were bound to be imitators (ironically Honeymee itself is a knockoff of a Korean chain called Softree). A few ice cream shops in Koreatown quickly added honey chip ice cream (its official name) to their menus, and even Pinkberry got in the trend for a while, offering it as a special. Now, we have a dedicated Honeymee-like spot called CremeBee, an Alhambra shop that soft opened back in July and celebrated its grand opening in August.
CremeBee is a cute place. There are wooden benches, shiny white tables, and a wood crate art piece in the front of the store that customers seem to love using as a selfie backdrop. The sweet smell of honey tea permeates. Above the counter, which is lined with glass jars filled with honeycomb, cereal, Ferrero Rocher chocolates, and other confections, there’s a big screen TV that loops photos of each of the eight concoctions CremeBee offers, including one with boba and another particularly sinful-looking thing called the Volcano, covered in chocolate sauce, coca powder, cocoa rice cereal, Ferrero Rocher, and a wafer stick.
Most of the options come honey drizzled, and you can get the classic honeycomb topped soft-serve just like at Honeymee, but the new brand breaks from original by offering something new and blue: cotton candy. The Cloud 9, which CremeBee is swiftly becoming known for (it’s a social media sensation), is a cup of ice cream filled with frozen yogurt and topped with a big “cloud” of cotton candy that they make right in front of you. Two little cloud-shaped marshmallows are carefully placed in the billowing puff. It’s weird but its whimsy factor is off the charts.
It can be a bit unwieldy, too. While I waited for my order, I wondered if I was supposed to eat the cotton candy first then dig into the cup, or was I supposed to let it just melt into the yogurt. Would I have to hold it while I ate? So many questions. But, thankfully, the guy who handed it to me also gave another cup, a wet wipe, and some instructions. “This is where you put the cotton candy,” he said. I obeyed, lifting it from one cup to another after popping the marshmallows into my mouth.
The cotton candy is actually the best part of the kooky creation. Its blue-raspberry flavor is distinct and, since it’s made to order, it’s really fresh and light. The frozen yogurt, on the other hand, is underwhelming. The texture is nice and smooth, but not as creamy or milky tasting as the ice cream that Honeymee offers. On paper, though, it does have better credentials: Cremebee’s yogurt is made with organic milk and packed with probiotics while the honey they use is local and raw.
“At CremeBee, our goal is to provide healthy and delicious frozen treat that is also visually appealing, creative and fun,” the owner told me via email. And it is. A sugar-induced headache kept me from finishing the whole thing, but the kids and teens devouring their own around me didn’t seem to have that problem. Is it a knock off? Sure, but at least they’re building on the trend with some razzmatazz. And as long as Honeymee doesn’t make a play for Alhambra, or start offering cotton candy, CremeBee could possibly become a mainstay on Main Street.
CremeBee, 137 West Main St., Alhambra