When Alice Cherng and Belinda Wei met in 2015, they became fast friends. The duo bonded over their both being Taiwanese Americans and alums of Café Gratitude. “Our friendship was forged over eating a lot of vegan food,” Cherng recalls, “but when it came to desserts, we couldn’t find good ice cream.”
Their complaints? Vegan ice cream flavors were basic and missing the creamy mouthfeel of their dairy counterparts.
Two years later, they launched Cocobella Creamery, one of the first Baskin-Robbins-style vegan ice cream shops in Los Angeles. Initially, they primarily used coconut milk in their ice cream bases to achieve rich, smooth scoops, but as the years passed, they started to branch out and use other dairy alternatives like oat milk. To reflect their new formula, they’re now relaunching as Dear Bella and have added soft-serve to their rich array of offerings—from sauces to seasonal flavors like candy apple—most of which are made from scratch.
“Our philosophy is it has to taste and look good, but be good for you, too,” Cherng says.
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It’s not an easy feat figuring out the science behind vegan ice cream. Getting each flavor right requires extensive trial and error. The move away from coconut milk was motivated by a need for a dairy alternative with a more neutral flavor, one that wouldn’t lend a coconut edge to everything.
Perfecting flavors can take, on average, three months from the seed of an idea to fruition. For their ube casserole ice cream, they slow-roast purple yam as a way to dehydrate it so there aren’t potential ice crystals. Then they add natural colorings like red beet powder and blue spirulina to get a purple pop of color. Toasted marshmallows and candied pecans get mixed in to complete the recipe.
“Sometimes we hit the nail on the head right off the bat, but there are some, like the red velvet, that took a two-year process,” Wei says.
Dear Bella, 1253 Vine St., Ste. 12, Hollywood, 323-848-4672.
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