An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Aug 20, 2014
08:27 AMThe Connecticut Table
The Next Frozen Yogurt? SnoJoy Café Brings ‘Shaved Snow’ to Connecticut
Moveover frozen yogurt, there’s a new kid on the alternative-to-ice-cream culinary block or at least that’s what the young entrepreneurial owners of SnoJoy Café in New Haven hope.
In May, Jolina Li and Nina Ziao, both 25, opened the Café on 9 Whitney Ave. The place specializes in shaved snow, a cold, refreshing and relatively low-calorie snack that is popular in Taiwan.
The café is decorated with a bright and funky paint scheme and often gets mistaken for a frozen yogurt place, but though shaved snow may be a cousin to frozen yogurt it’s a distinctly different delicacy.
Li describes shaved snow (right), which is made from milk and sugar, as “frozen cotton candy,” but adds “some describe it as the baby of ice cream and shaved ice.” However you describe it, shaved snow is light and tasty, and only has about 80 calories per serving. It’s got a consistency somewhere between Italian ice and frozen yogurt and different syrups give the “snow” different flavors. (At SnoJoy the most popular flavors are mango and green tea.) Like frozen yogurt, shaved snow is garnished with a variety of toppings including chocolate syrup, nuts, fruit, candies etc.
“We want to make it like the next frozen yogurt—the next big thing,” says Li.
Li and Ziao (pictured left) both originally hail from China. They met in the U.S. after their families immigrated and have remained friends since childhood.
They often traveled together while they were growing up. On a trip to California they both tasted shaved snow for the first time (though popularized in Taiwan it has also became popular in California).
Ziao fell in love with the dessert on that trip.
“I was just blown away with it. The texture is so different,” she says. “It tastes like snow.”
After the trip the duo decided they’d open their own place with the hope of bringing shaved snow to Connecticut. Both of their families were in the restaurant business so they grew up working in the industry and understood the business side of things. The tricky part was figuring out how to actually make and present shaved snow correctly.
“It was trial and error for a couple of months to finally get the texture and the flavor that we wanted,” recalls Li.
Beyond shaved snow the SnoJoy Café also offers bubble tea, select lunch sandwiches and another specialty dessert from Asia called honey brick toast. This is an ice cream sundae-like dessert where the ice cream is served within a cube-shaped and honey-glazed bucket of heated bread, the result is a waffle-and-ice-cream-like dining experience that is oh so very good.
Since May, Li and Ziao have introduced many in Connecticut to shaved snow and as a result the dessert has some new converts. But, they’re also hoping to attract those already familiar with it.
“We can’t wait until Yale University [begins classes this semester]. There are a lot of international students who already know what shaved snow is,” Li says.