You’ll go bananas for Vannah Banana’s coconut-based gourmet vegan ice creams! Here we review some of the tasty treats from the brand-new Black-owned vegan ice cream business taking Philadelphia by storm.
In the southwest Philadelphia section of Kingsessing, there is a culinary craftsman creating creamy coconut confections. His name is Kianu Walker.
At 25, this young Black entrepreneur is quickly making a name for himself among the vegan community in Philadelphia with his delicious, hand-crafted ice creams under the moniker “Vannah Banana.”
Vannah Banana, a line of coconut-based ice creams (I know what you’re thinking; we’ll revisit that shortly) is quickly becoming available in quite a few restaurants up and down South Street and elsewhere throughout our fair city.
Though he says he’s been making ice cream for a while, Kianu really put things in motion around 6 months ago, just before he (like many of us) found himself with a lot of extra time. He used his time well. And we are so glad he did.
It should be understood: This ice cream is not your standard vanilla or chocolate option. Kianu offers flavors like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cookie Butter Graham Cracker, Coconut Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Almond, Rose Gold (with real 24k gold flakes throughout!), and more!
We knew we just HAD to get our hands on some of these to sample them for you… and science.
Okay, fine. They looked utterly, ridiculously incredible and we wanted them for ourselves.
But first…which is it? Banana or coconut?
You may have noticed something pawing at you with a sense of confusion and curiosity. Something that has you scratching your chin and going “but, wait a minute??”
You might be thinking the same thing I was thinking. Why is it called Vannah BANANA if it’s coconut-based ice cream?
When we spoke on the phone, Kianu mentioned he started with banana-based vegan ice creams, but the fat content he desired, and that we associate with creaminess of texture in ice cream, was not present.
So, he went with the coconut base but stuck with the Vannah Banana name “because I really like the name. It’s just fun to say.”
It IS fun to say. It really is. I’ve been running it in “The Name Game” in my mind for three days.
(You know: “Vannah! Vannah, Vannah, Bo Bana…” Oh? It’s in your head, too? What an awesome coincidence!)
Kianu also mentioned he does want to get back to his “banana beginnings” soon. As such, he is working on a line of frozen bananas.
But do not be fooled. Much like his ice creams, there won’t be anything plain about these! He mentioned a few flavors he was currently thinking about. One that really stuck with me is the dark chocolate toffee macadamia frozen banana.
We’ll be on the lookout for those.
The Quest Begins
Vannah Banana posted on his Instagram about an upcoming pop-up at Queen and Rook Cafe on 2nd and South in honor of National Ice Cream Day. We just knew we had to take this opportunity to try some of these luxurious looking vegan ice creams for ourselves!
I prepared myself accordingly and grabbed the thermal-lined cooler bag and every freeze-pak we had in the freezer. I wanted to make sure I got our tasty treats from South Philly back to the Northeast as pristinely as possible.
When I arrived, Kianu seemed rather impressed at my preparations as he laughed his approval with a nod.
I quickly packed the coldbag with the four 8-ounce cups of Blueberry Vanilla, Cookies and Cream, Green Tea Matcha CBD, and Speculoos Cookie Butter – which debuted that day!
Kianu was so nice and friendly. We talked a bit while my order was scooped inside the restaurant.
I would have loved to continue talking to him. He really is an affable guy. But I wanted to get the ice cream back quickly, and it was fast approaching 95° outside.
Thermal-lined bag or no, ice cream was at stake, and I had to go.
The Contenders and Taste Trial
When I got home, we put the four containers in the freezer to let them reset. (In case they got too soft on the way home, even with all the precautions. We’re very serious about our research over here!)
After a rather difficult wait period, we set the containers on the counter, snapped a few photos, and grabbed a couple spoons and a glass of water for the palate cleanse.
I love this job.
We were specifically looking for a few things. Flavor first, obviously. These do not disappoint in that arena. At all.
Next comes texture and creaminess.
We’ve found some coconut-based ice creams can have more of an ice milk texture (if you’re old enough to remember that) rather than the thick creamy ice cream we all know and love.
I’m happy to report: Not only do these NOT fall into that category, they’re SO creamy they may have created a category of their own!
Now, to the contenders! <blare of trumpets and fanfare>
The blueberry vanilla flavor was absolutely delicious.
Of the four, it’s the only one with a semi-strong sense of coconut flavor. I wasn’t sure if this was intentional, but given the creator’s attention to detail, it must be.
Either way, it was greatly appreciated. While distinctly present, the coconut flavor doesn’t overpower the true taste of the ice cream. It actually really complements it.
The strong blueberry flavor really combines well with the slight notes of vanilla and coconut. The mouth-feel is creamy but not heavy.
I’m more of a fruity ice cream fan than B, but she really liked this as well. I loved it and thought it was perfect on the hot day.
With difficulty, I saved a bit of this. B had the amazing idea that I might like to add a little of the ice cream to the blueberry limoncello I recently made. Sort of an adult fruity float.
This is another one of the reasons why she’s brilliant. (Also, it was really good.)
Green Tea Matcha CBD
While still creamy, the Green Tea Matcha CBD has a super-light feel about it. This is the sort of frozen treat that you could eat on the hottest day and not feel bogged down after.
The green tea flavor is absolutely delightful while not being overwhelming. I really, really enjoyed this one; I am also a BIG fan of green tea.
The term that keeps coming back to me as how to describe this best is “subtle” – but the flavor doesn’t disappoint. If you like the flavor of iced green tea, you’ll really like this.
Cookies and Cream
Sometimes, when a dessert is just ridiculously good, I seem to forget how to maintain motor function in my hand and drop my utensil. It just falls right out and I can’t do anything to stop it.
I don’t know what it is, but it’s happened maybe five times in my adult life. (Once in a rather upscale, somewhat dark, very quiet establishment…which was quite awkward.)
I took a taste of this Cookies and Cream. I dropped my spoon. So, that makes six times in my adult life.
This is where we began getting into a little denser mouth-feel. The creaminess of Cookies and Cream flavor is just so, so spot on!
Whereas the blueberry and green tea seemed to be a little lighter and melt on the tongue a little faster, CC hung around to play for a while. The incredible flavor of the chocolate really stays with you.
Yes! This is a chocolate Cookies and Cream. And man, it is good! Big chunks of cookie hiding like treasure in the smooth, velvety-textured chocolate ice cream.
And what a chocolate flavor! It’s full, robust. I’ve had some vegan ice creams that reminded me of chocolate. This one was chocolatey chocolate.
Speculoos Cookie Butter
If you’ve never had Speculoos cookie butter, you seriously need to find yourself some.
Our introduction was a few years ago. We were at a grocery store in Guadeloupe and purchased what we thought was peanut butter. Such a fortunate accident. This ice cream immediately brought us back to those wonderful memories.
Kianu struck upon sheer genius here! I mean, what else really needs to be said? It’s Speculoos cookie butter in vegan ice cream form.
And it was absolutely amazing and everything we expected it would be! Sweet, sweet Speculoos heaven!
It was thick and creamy with a full texture that lingers on the tongue extending the flavor and the joy. This really delivered!
There are little, broken-up pieces of Speculoos cookie throughout the ice cream as well making the experience all the more enjoyable.
Overall, this ice cream is Speculoos-tacular!
To the Victor Goes the Spoils
Obviously, after great consideration and careful tasting, the clear winner here is Vannah Banana! All of it!! And you, if you take the opportunity to get yourself some of Kianu’s amazing Vannah Banana vegan ice cream!
Where to Get This Awesome Vegan Ice Cream
I mentioned earlier how Kianu’s creations are currently in limited availability, but fear not! You can score yours at several places around Philadelphia.
Where to Find This Vegan Ice Cream on South Street:
(AKA – A great opportunity to do a vegan ice cream crawl.)
- Nourish Cafe (650 South)
- Tattooed Mom (530 South)
- Queen and Rook Cafe (2nd and South/ technically 607 S 2nd St)
Where to Find This Vegan Ice Cream Elsewhere in Philadelphia and Surrounding Areas:
- Atiya Ola’s Spirit First Foods (310 S. 48th St/West Philly)
- UnSoul Food’s new Fairmount location (1839 Poplar St.)
- Dreams Ice Cream in Glenside (33 E Glenside Ave)
Now go get yourself some great gourmet vegan ice cream and let us know what flavor you try! It’s going to be a difficult choice, so maybe I should pluralize that to “flavors.” 😉
Because after all, we ALL scream for vegan ice cream!