Lifestyle

Tongue Tai'd — Kingston's new Thai ice cream roll shop, Tai Tai

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

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“I've always said that if I was ever granted a few wishes, to eat as much ice cream as I want, without any consequences, would be one of them.” These words from Tai Tai Ice Cream Rolls founder & CEO Kendra Carberry-Walters reflect just how dedicated she is to the product that she sells.

Located at shop 20 Northside Plaza in Liguanea, it's a creatively designed space outfitted with tables, comfortable window benches and swings. “The brand is modern, fun, yet sophisticated, and I wanted that to be communicated throughout the store as well,” she shared.

So what are ice cream rolls? In the words of UK ad slogan-cum-vernacular: “It does exactly what it says on the tin.”

Ice cream rolls are rolls of ice cream around three inches long and an inch wide that are a popular treat in Thailand, as well as Malaysia, Cambodia and the Philippines. They are beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. Thursday Food had the opportunity to sample a few popular flavours and combinations.

The mango and strawberry fusion (the combination of two flavours is called a twirl) was creamy, sweet, fresh and tasted like hand-picked fruit. Carberry-Walters disclosed that a combination of Julie and Bombay mangoes, from a friend's farm, are used to create the flavour. The strawberries, too, are local. She noted: “I also try to use as many locally grown or produced ingredients as possible. These are usually healthier choices and I like the idea of supporting local businesses and contributing to the development of my country.”

The process takes around five minutes — each serving is done to order so there's a little wait. For dairy flavours, cream is blitzed with sugar, honey or agave by an immersion blender. The sweetened cream is then poured onto a metal surface that is below zero degrees. Paddles that resemble wide putty scrapers are used to chop and mix in fruit, candy or cookies. Once the ice cream is frozen, it is scraped into rolls and finished with a choice of toppings.

What is remarkable about Tai Tai is that even if you have a strict diet you can indulge without guilt. “As the market shifts towards healthier lifestyle trends, and being somewhat of a conscious eater myself, I saw the opportunity to use this technique to make the product even more unique by making it suitable for people of all dietary restrictions and preferences to consume,” said Carberry-Walters.

There are vegan options and the fruit flavours, like the soursop, can be made sugar-free. Thursday Food can confirm that this flavour is delicious. Expect it to be a little more granular as there are pieces of fruit. Plus, the high water content of soursop makes frozen particles more pronounced on the palate.

What was a revelation was the chocolate-chai twirl. Made from Hershey chocolate and Carberry-Walters' own chai blend “(it's the Indian in me)”, this combination is, in the words of ex- Great British Bake Off judge Mary Berry, “sheer perfection”.

“I am not too concerned about the competition, as I am absolutely confident in my brand and I prefer to keep a tunnel vision to maintain authenticity and avoid unnecessary distractions.” This was Kendra Carberry-Walters' response when asked about why she opened an ice cream roll shop when there was already one in Kingston (Rolly Polly). The shop is not even a month old and already has regulars and a decent social media presence. Social media and customer referrals have been the brand's major marketing tools. Along with rainbow bagels, açaí smoothie bowls, charcoal soft serve, and raindrop cakes — this product is Instagram shutterbait.

Sincere joy is felt upon walking through Tai Tai's doors. The team greets with genuine smiles, is affable and ready to suggest tasty options. Thursday Food got talked into trying an ackee and salt fish waffle. Who woulda thunk that this would work so well? In Asia, it's very popular to mix foods into waffle batter and Tai Tai is staying on-theme with infusing Jamaican flavours into an Asian street-food concept.

The young people who work in the shop are all tertiary students (some have had to take a semester off due to finances). Carberry-Walters is not just an employer but also a mentor. She finds out about their interests and life visions, and helps to groom them for the business world. This is similar to her experience working in the private sector at Digicel and the World Bank where her interests were encouraged and nurtured. With her own business, Carberry-Walters wants to be successful while sending the elevator down to empower others.

The shop is opened seven days a week from 12:00 noon- 9:00 pm Monday through Thursday and 12:00 noon to 10:00 pm Friday through Sunday. It won't be uncommon to run into Carberry-Walters' grandmother Yvonne Walters, a retired Jamaica Tourist Board regional manager. She's been supporting her granddaughter with the day-to-day operation of the shop and her presence only dials up the family feel of the place.

Kendra Carberry-Walters knows what she wants. She researched the business thoroughly and upon finding the right location opened within two weeks. She wants to roll out the Tai Tai brand islandwide and make it a franchisable model so that it can become a global brand. “They say do what you love and I love ice cream,” and, boy, does this love shine through each bite of Tai Tai Ice Cream Rolls.

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