It’s beginning to drizzle as the couple behind Nicoco Hawaiian Gelato, Ashley and Sean, and their friends, Zoe and Phil, pull into Kalani to pick me up for an afternoon of lychee picking. On Hawai‘i Island, we know the rain may only last mere moments; plus it’s a hot day, so I welcome a light shower. Either way, I know that whatever the weather does is unimportant because I’m about to go lychee picking with a car full of new friends. Ashley and Sean moved out to Hawai‘i almost 10 years ago in search of a place that embraced a healthy, local, sustainable way of life. The couple had both been vegan - favoring a plant-based diet - for quite some time, and the tropical abundance of Hawai‘i was becoming more appealing to their discerning palates.
I first met Ashley and Sean in 2013 after spotting the incredibly friendly, tattooed duo at SPACE Market, a weekly farmer’s market at the end of the Red Road in Kalapana. At the time, they were selling soap for local Puna company - Filthy Farm Girl. Soon after, Ashley and Sean decided to try selling four flavors of their handcrafted gelato at that same Saturday market (Mint Chocolate Chip, Ginger Turmeric, Chocolate, and Turkish Coffee). A consciously prepared and unique offering, the gelato sold out at a surprisingly quick pace. They returned to the market the following weekend and sold out once again. This continued for a number of weeks until they decided to buy a few more ice cream machines and transition their beloved hobby into a business. Fast-forward to 2015, and the duo has found a market for their signature products all over Hawai‘i Island. And, you can expect big things from them in the coming months - hence Phil and Zoe's presence on our lychee-picking adventure. Another power couple, local filmmakers Phil and Zoe are creating Nicoco’s Kickstarter campaign, scheduled to launch late Summer (don’t worry, we’ll help spread the word as soon as it’s posted!).
Buying, foraging, and supporting local farmers to get Hawaii-local ingredients has always been a part of Nicoco’s mission. Whether it’s sourcing turmeric from a farmer down the road or picking lychee’s off the tree at a friend’s house - you can trust that what’s inside each gelato is not only delicious, but locally sourced.
In the last couple of years, Ashley and Sean have made almost 200 different flavors. The lychees that we’re picking today from their friend, Helio’s farm are going into a batch for tomorrow at Uncle Robert’s night market.
When I visit Uncle's the following night, I can hardly wait to sample the gelato. While I wait in the long line of people waiting to get a scoop, I marvel in how attentive Ashley is to her customers, letting them sample each flavor, never tiring of saying “It’s vegan! We make our gelato with coconut milk!” with a huge smile on her face.
I sample the White Chocolate Pomegranate and the Honey-Peanut Butter. Both flavors are so rich with goodness that they seem more like a thick, healthy smoothie than a gelato. I know that what I’m eating is filled with love and true aloha-spirit, and, of course, names of ingredients I can pronounce! I end up getting the Lychee and Honey-Peanut Butter. It gives me such a great sense of satisfaction knowing that the lychee was made with ingredients that were picked only yesterday from a friend's orchard.
As I bring the gelato back to my friends to sample, they all ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over the deliciousness. Luckily, I won't have to wait until Wednesday to get my next gelato fix, because it's available at Kalani's Hale Aloha the future site of fall’s Market at Kalani opening.
Ready for your sample?
Indulge in Nicoco at the following locations: