Four students tasting ice cream flavors standing in white lab coats

The Annual UMass Ice Cream Competition

Herrell’s, an ice cream shop in Northampton, to produce all four original flavors

May 18, 2023

The four ice cream flavors dreamed up and concocted by food science students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst - Herrell’s Ice Cream & Bakery annual competition were so spectacular that Judy Herrell has decided to produce and sell them all.

“This is the hardest one we’ve ever done,” said Herrell, owner of the ice cream shop in Northampton, who served for the fourth consecutive year as the mentor to students and judge of the competition, along with Herrell’s manager Kirsten Tabb. “They were all great.”

In the end, Herrell and Tabb decided that Tea House Blossom – an oolong tea and peach-flavored ice cream with rosemary extract – edged out second-place Maize Craze – featuring vegan corn bread chunks and a hot honey swirl with a jalapeño, poblano and habanero pepper flavor – to be named this year’s champion flavor. Tied for third place were Hidden Royal-Tea – flavored with Earl Grey tea, frozen peaches, peach preserves and lavender water – and Berry Tequila Tango, spiked with raspberries, frozen cranberries, lime, salt and – of course – high-end tequila.

More than 100 students, faculty, staff and guests crammed into a classroom at the Integrative Learning Center for the presentation of the ice cream flavors by four teams of students who passed out samples of their creation. The fan favorite, chosen by the attendees, was Maize Craze.

The food science majors who created the winning Tea House Blossom are Jingyi Cheng, from Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, Zachary Kwalick, who grew up in New Jersey and California, Luke Ma, from San Mateo, Calif. and Jiaying Sun, whose hometown is Shanghai.

“What gave Blossom the edge was that when you put a scoop in your mouth and you inhaled, you would feel the flowering of the tea, and nothing is better than that,” Herrell said. “There are more senses to it.”

Maize Craze and Hidden Royal-Tea were both “tongue talkers,” Herrell said. “Both of those flavors had something for every part of your tongue.”

The Maize Craze creators are Astrid D’Andrea, of Hazlet, N.J., Jacqueline Frederick, of Malta, N.Y., Erica MacGrory, of Oxford, Mass. and Amelia Navarre, of Villach, Austria. The all-Massachusetts Hidden Royal-Tea team includes Nathanael Krulewitch, of Boston, Garett LaDuke, of Ludlow, Kristine Lee, of Westboro and Lily Saad, of Andover.

Berry Tequila Tango – dubbed “The Ice Cream of the Summer!” by its creators – is brightly colored, carefully marketed and could well come out on top in the ice cream shop, Herrell predicted. “In the long run, it will probably be the best-selling,” she said.

The Tango creators are Tevin Early, of Springfield, Mass., Taha Gacimi, of Casablanca, Morocco, Paul Maguire, of Cranston, R.I. and Michael Polidor, of Sandwich, Mass.

The product development course was taught this year by UMass Amherst alumna Peiyi Shen, a Ph.D. graduate of the food science program. She described all the flavors as “unique and very creative.”

Though it sounds like nothing but fun, creating an ice cream flavor – especially with swirls and add-ins – is a highly scientific process requiring knowledge of the microbiology and chemistry of food ingredients and food processing. Knowing how to keep costs down and produce something people want to buy and eat are other challenges.

Amounting to a capstone food science project, each presentation included a market and nutrition analysis, as well as food safety and allergen considerations. “They were able to put different ideas into practice as they brainstormed,” Shen said of her students. “They shaped and improved their formulations into something commercial.”

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