Thai Ice Cream
While other young female college roommates might spend their evenings dreaming about boys, good grades or fun vacations, LSU students Sophia Liu and Jenny Ni dreamt of opening their own ice cream store. Since their sophomore year, they have spent much of their free time planning their menu and building a solid business plan.
Early this summer, Liu, who just graduated with a degree in mathematics, and Ni, who will finish her degree in accounting later this year, saw their dream become a reality as the two opened the doors to Ice Queen in Metairie (just west of the Causeway up by Lake Pontchartrain).
The store sells Thai ice cream, also known as rolled ice cream, which became popular in Thailand where it was sold mostly by street vendors. The craze caught on in the U.S. a few years ago and the young women are hoping it will become popular here in New Orleans.
Thai rolled ice cream is just what it sounds like: little rolls of ice cream that are packed into a cup then topped with all manner of extras, such as toasted marshmallow, fresh fruit and caramel or chocolate sauce.
“We knew about this ice cream from our travels and thought it could be popular here too,” says Ni.
So, here’s how it works, first a base liquid is poured onto an ice-cold metal surface. Ice Queen offers a variety of base flavors such as chocolate, uji matcha, coffee or strawberry swirl. The liquid freezes then into a creamy texture. Then they chop, mush and manipulate the mixture. Customers can then add additional flavors. In the process the mixture is scraped into multiple rolls, which are placed in a cup and topped with a choice of scrumptious toppings.
“It’s good ice cream but the whole process is like a performance. It’s entertainment,” says Liu. “It’s made right in front of you. It’s hand-crafted ice cream.”
The shop also serves milk tea, latte tea, real fruit teas and Liu says the crème brulee tea is especially good. The teas are served in glassware that resembles light bulbs and that even light up.
“We keep updating our menu,” says Liu. “We talk to our customers and get ideas from them. We have a lot of regular customers who are always giving us good suggestions.”
The women say their challenge is the same that many emerging small businesses face: how to get the best results from a fairly limited advertising budget. They use social media and offer special discounts to their Metairie neighbors and do their best to generate good word of mouth.
The store is bright and inviting, with a giant stuffed bear welcoming all customers. There are board games on the tables and Liu and Ni make it clear this is a place for families to come and have some fun.
“The very, very best thing about our business is making our customers happy,” says Liu. “Our favorite thing is to have happy customers.”
In full disclosure, I was treated to one of their newest creations: a frozen S’mores ice cream treat. It’s a square of banana ice cream with added chocolate flakes that is covered with a homemade marshmallow fluff, which is toasted brown with a culinary torch. Total yum!
For those seeking relief from our still-sultry summer heat, Ice Queen is a great option to try something new courtesy of two young enterprising businesswomen that are just as sweet as their rolled ice cream treats.
3304 West Esplanade Avenue ste B7