235 E Pender St, Vancouver BC V6A 1T8
Full disclosure here: I am lactose intolerant and have a dairy allergy to boot. These two things are different, but I won’t bore you with the details as this is a food review blog, not a medical-science-dot-org page. But if you’re curious, I’m never one to turn away more knowledge, even if it means Google-ing non-credible sources, so I did the work for you: lactose intolerance vs. dairy allergy, courtesy of Webmd, which is credible(ish).
I prefaced with that because I have spent the last decade looking for non-dairy alternative ice creams. There was no way in this forsaken life I would give that up – I love it too much (I once ate 5 Nestle Drumstick cones in a row, in an attempt to finish a box of 8, and failed but still, that’s a lot for someone who might explode from eating that much dairy).
Umaluma opened in Vancouver over two years ago and has been scooping out vegan, organic, delicious, dairy-free gelato since! I couldn’t have been happier with this newcomer and became an immediate fan and (unsolicited) advocate of their products. I didn’t even bother telling people they were vegan, dairy-free blah blah blah, it was just good freaking gelato.
On a warm day, I would walk over to the shop during my lunch break and grab a cone. There was always a line, and there was always some new, wildly unique flavour. Today was a cold one (6 degrees Celsius) but the sunshine made me feel like it was close enough to summer so I decided to indulge. The normally-packed storefront was completely empty (thanks to COVID-19 and the temperature).
Ian Bruce, the creator and owner, was standing inside the shop alone happy to personally serve his creations to any takers. I tried three flavours: Mahalo Macadamia Nut, Cardamom Fancy, and Caffeine Waves. All were delicious, complex, and luxurious. This was the result of a very laborious process for sourcing coconut milk, and after 30 types Ian found the right one: it was rich enough, neutral enough (no overbearing coconut flavour), and organic.
Still, I went with Punk Pistachio which is my all-time favourite flavour of gelato/ice cream. Umaluma does it exceedingly well because out of every pistachio ice cream I’ve had (over 50 now), this one is the best. Creamy, rich, pistachio-forward flavour, not overly sweet, not artificial tasting, I could go on and on. But I did learn that these pistachios were sourced directly from Italy, a region by Mount Etna in Sicily to be exact. And they are expensive and have a specific pistachio flavour profile. Well, I sure know how to pick ‘em.
Another fun sourcing fact: Ian gets his chocolate 100% pure from Madagascar, also expensive and difficult to import. My partner chose Caffeine Waves, which is a coffee (duh) base made from Milano espresso. This is combined with the above-mentioned chocolate and salted caramel. It was also amazing and a must-try for any coffee/chocolate lover.
Every visit to Umaluma always ends with me beaming, but this last one left me with so much knowledge and appreciation for the business, especially at a time like this. The quality speaks for itself when tasting the creamy gelato, and sure, it’s no $1 cone from McDonald’s but you get what you pay for. And I will pay every cent, every time – not only to get my favourite, but to support local business and restaurants in Vancouver.
Oh, and Umaluma – it means nothing. Only that it sounds yummy and Italian.
- Punk Pistachio, Cone $8 (+$1.75 Charcoal Waffle Cone Upgrade)
- Caffeine Waves, Cup $7
Beats: C.R.E.A.M – Wu-Tang Clan