Credits By: CBC
Kevin Liu masterfully merges Eastern tea culture with Western dessert cravings in frozen treats. Based in Vancouver, Liu, the proprietor of Kebs Makes Ice Cream, is crafting an enticing fusion of ice creams, intertwining flavors like rare Korean oolong, freshly harvested Shincha leaves from Japan, and even Chinese herbal cough syrup. Unlike the typical chocolate or vanilla repertoire, Liu’s creations stir curiosity and delight.
Unsatisfied with the offerings he found in conventional ice cream shops, Liu embarked on a journey to conceive his flavors. However, transforming these ideas into ice creams proved to be an uphill battle, fraught with multiple trials and errors. Undeterred by setbacks, Liu’s determination spurred him to explore new avenues.
Liu’s exploration led him to Asia, where he discovered a burgeoning world of tea-centric treats. “Tea in ice creams came from my travels in Asia,” he shares. “They have a lot of tea-centric things, tea-centric cocktails, tea in their food, and something about that exploded my taste buds.”
While tea-infused flavors such as London Fog have gained popularity, they remain a rarity in the West. Gregory Lui, a tea expert and food and beverage consultant in Vancouver, notes, “You can get coffee ice creams everywhere, but exotic tea-crafted ice creams are much rarer.”
Although an experienced chef, Liu recognized his need for expertise in tea, he sought guidance from O5 Rare Tea + Kombucha Bar, a Kitsilano-based tea shop known for its artisanal teas sourced globally. “Folks at O5 are very knowledgeable when it comes to tea, and many of my flavors are based on their recommendations,” Liu acknowledges.
O5 acquires tea leaves from remote farms in regions like Bhutan, Nepal’s Himalayas, and India’s northeast. Geoff Sugiyama, the manager at O5, emphasizes their openness to innovative tea uses. “Yes, the teas are rare, but if someone wants to make excellent ice creams, cakes, we are excited to see new ways of extracting and infusing tea,” Sugiyama affirms.
One of Kebs Makes Ice Cream’s standout offerings is the Chiran Shincha, derived from the first spring harvest of tea leaves in Kagoshima’s Chiran region on Japan’s Kyushu Island. Korean oolong, hailing from South Korea’s Gyeongsangnam province, offers flavors reminiscent of cacao, charred oak, and buckwheat honey. Lui points out that Korean oolong and Shincha are uncommon and highly sought-after in the North American market.
In a daring and playful departure, Liu resurrects the taste of Chinese herbal cough syrup through ice cream. Fond of Pei Pa Koa, a Chinese cough syrup, since childhood, Liu ingeniously incorporates its essence into his creations. His innovative spirit merges traditions and modernity, catering to mature palates with simultaneously complex and comforting flavors.
Lui commends crafted ice cream makers like Kebs for tapping into mature palates with these unique and intricate flavors. While commonplace in Asia, these offerings find novelty and resonance in Western Canada. Liu, looking ahead, promises an array of distinctive flavors yet to be unveiled. “It means a lot to me that I can utilize these lesser-known ingredients and make something delicious out of it,” he reflects, capturing the essence of his culinary exploration.