Vegan friends and foodies Alice Cherng and Belinda Wei spent most of their friendship eating out, and while there were plenty of options for vegan diners in Los Angeles at the time, they found vegan desserts less than satisfying.
“At the end of every meal we want something sweet and we could never find anything up to our standards,” Cherng said.
Wei said they just couldn’t find the ice cream flavors from their childhood in the form of plants.
“You have classic flavors like cookies, cream, and chocolate, but when you’re looking for dairy-free ice cream, it’s usually just sherbet,” Wei said.
Wei has extensive culinary experience and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, while Cherng started working in the restaurant industry after feeling dissatisfied in her career as a public accountant. The two met in 2015 while working the line at a vegan restaurant. They bonded over their vegan lifestyle and shared Taiwanese heritage.
“We started trying to make our own vegan ice cream at home,” Cherng said.
The couple launched Dear Bella Creamery in 2017 and thought they could get a pushcart at the farmer’s market, but they soon made a name for themselves in the Los Angeles vegan market with a location on Vine Street in Hollywood.
Dear Bella uses a variety of bases to create the rich, creamy texture of regular ice cream in its treats.
“Our main base is a blend of oat milk and coconut, it’s our own blend,” Cherng said. “We also have a coconut-only base and we also have a nut butter base, using peanut butter, sunflower butter.”
In addition to scoops and pints, Dear Bella also offers sodas, floats, ice cream cakes, ice cream sandwiches, and shakes.
The menu features a quarterly rotation of 16 ice cream flavors with classics like Rocky Road, Cookies and Cream, and Strawberry Cream. But customers will also find flavors in their AAPI collection that honor their Taiwanese roots, like black sesame and Taiwanese pineapple cake.
“We have 16 flavors, and at any given time, we will have at least two, if not three or four Asian-influenced flavors,” Cherng said. “Mostly Taiwanese because that’s what Belinda and I are.”
They have created some exciting options for the winter quarter of December through February, which will fall within the Lunar New Year.
“We created two flavors that are specific to Chinese or Taiwanese New Year for us,” Cherng said. “Tang yuan, which is basically a hot mochi filled with black sesame and peanuts, we made it into ice cream. The second is a Taiwanese square cookie which is a small cookie we had growing up. Those are very nostalgic flavors for us.”
The partners learned of a vacancy at LAB Anti-Mall in Costa Mesa, signed a lease, and opened quickly in October, making the new location their first venture in Orange County.
“We are very excited to be in Orange County,” Cherng said. “This is very different for us, but it was a very intentional decision to come here. We love the community, we love the space here. I think Orange County is unique in its offering and its people and what they’re looking for. It’s different from Los Angeles, and I like that.”
So far, Dear Bella Creamery has enjoyed a warm welcome.
“The reception has been very positive,” Cherng said. “The vegan scene isn’t as big here as it is in Los Angeles, but I think it’s growing and that’s why we wanted to come here.”
“The most rewarding part is ultimately cultivating a space that everyone wants to be in,” Wei said.
Dear Bella’s expansion into Orange County is only part of the growth they have planned for the business. They also recently launched nationwide shipping, which Wei says was not an easy process.
“It was painful,” Wei said, “really exhausting.”
Cherng said they had to build their shipping production from scratch.
“It was everything from finding a designer to design a custom box to finding a manufacturer to make the box. We also tried different insulating liners because traditionally it’s Styrofoam, which we didn’t want to do, so we had to find one that was made out of paper.”
They also had to find dry ice and calculate our shipping costs, but they eventually created a shipping system that they were satisfied with.
Customers can choose any five pints for domestic shipping, and orders ship every Tuesday from Dear Bella’s Los Angeles location. Orders must be placed by Sunday midnight to ship Tuesday and arrive within one to two business days.
Now Wei and Cherng are concentrating on spreading the word about their ice cream.
“Delivering our message is a challenge. We are always trying to spread the word and share this,” Cherng said. “But when people find out and come and try it, it’s an experience for them.”
“Once they know it, it’s a game changer,” Wei said.
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