When it comes to warm weather treats, nothing sparks childhood memories quite like ice cream. For brothers Reza and Rehan Bhiwandiwalla, that means flavor memories of milk perfumed with rose syrup or clumps of Cadbury’s Bournvita malted chocolate powder.
The brothers immigrated to the United States in 2002 when Reza was 12 and Rehan was 8 years old. They became fascinated by the food in the U.S. The brothers enjoyed watching shows like Alton Brown’s Good Eats on the Food Network; which presented Reza and Rehan with different approaches to food available to them in America but perhaps needed to be adapted to their tastes. The pair began to realize many flavors they missed from back home in India weren’t represented in Atlanta’s Indian restaurants.
“You can get Indian food here, but sometimes it lacks the nostalgia factor, and so, especially in something like ice cream, there’s just nothing that brought those flavors to this medium,” Rehan says. “We couldn’t get ice cream like this anywhere, so we said, ‘why not make it?’”
India’s catalog of spices — like cinnamon, cardamom, saffron, cloves — add warmth and richness that shine through in the country’s dishes; especially in its sweets. The butter fat found in American ice cream carries these flavors perfectly.
But, if the brothers were going to make and sell ice cream in Atlanta, they wanted to do it right. So, Reza, 27, simultaneously pursued an MBA at Emory University and degrees in dairy science and ice cream science from Cornell and Penn State. Rehan, 24, studied at Emory University and is wrapping up his MBA at the University of Toronto. The brothers worked on their ice cream flavors for two years. They now have a small factory based in Stone Mountain.
The name Icecream Walla roughly translates to “seller of ice cream”. The brothers say they chose to spell ‘icecream’ as one word because it’s how they pronounced it as children.
The base for all of Icecream Walla’s ice creams is a malai (cream) flavor with a thick, creamy texture made from Georgia milk. Rehan says the flavor development process is completely personal, “It’s kind of like writing a song. Sometimes you have something in mind and you tweak it and you work on it, and sometimes something just hits you.”
That inspiration can be as minor as a garnish. Rehan recalls tasting rose petals at a restaurant, which triggered a memory of drinking milk with rose syrup as a child. The brothers captured that flavor in their Heartbeet Rose Petal ice cream, which balances perfumed sweetness with pistachios.
A flavor currently in development is based on Cadbury’s Bournvita; India’s quintessential powdered chocolate drink. The brothers added clumps of cocoa powder to honor the drink’s best feature — the powder that doesn’t dissolve. The saffron-tinted Badam (almond) milk flavor replicates a drink Reza and Rehan’s grandmother prepared for Eid—the end of Ramadan. In fact, the flavor wasn’t finalized until she approved it.
Flavor development typically takes 40 to 50 trials — about three to four months — with most time spent on perfecting tastes and making the product viable to sell. Reza says while constructing ice cream flavors is a complex process, the final product should taste simple.
Pints of the company’s ice creams are available at specialty stores throughout Atlanta—like the Patel Brothers in Decatur. Restaurants such as Tava Indian Bistro, Honest Indian Restaurant, and chef Meherwan Irani’s Chai Pani in Decatur carry individual-sized cups or gallons of Icecream Walla’s products to use in dishes or on their dessert menus. The brothers are also developing a self-serve product exclusively for Irani’s Indian street food stall Botiwalla at Ponce City Market.
“What I love about their product is how instantly Indian and nostalgic the ice cream and the flavors are yet how approachable it is to an American palate” says Irani. “The quality and craftsmanship is incredible. [Reza] soaks the almonds before dehydrating which gives the almonds in the ice cream an unbelievable airiness and crunch. His attention to detail and flavor is ridiculous.”
Irani is expanding Botiwalla to at least three more locations by the end of next year—good news for the Bhiwandiwalla brothers and the future of Icecream Walla.
Like Irani, the brothers say their mission is to elevate Indian cuisine in Atlanta and throughout the South. And, to make “the best ice cream ever.”
“It’s not just that there’s more Indian people here [in Atlanta] or people from any country and they’re consuming,” Reza says. “They’re meeting people, then showing their friends, and their friends like it and that’s how it [Icecream Walla] spreads.”
Icecream Walla’s current flavors include: vah-nilla, double milk chocolate, strawberry malai, badam milk with saffron and cardamom, English butter toffee, and heartbeet rose petal.
Pints of Icecream Walla are available at the Patel Brothers, Cherians International Groceries, Suvidha Suwanee, and Shreeji Groceries.
1625 Rock Mountain Blvd, Suite F, Stone Mountain. icecreamwalla.us.