Chocolate Ice Cream: A Local Taste Test

Alma Guzman / Heavy Table
Alma Guzman / Heavy Table

Last month, the Heavy Table proclaimed the best vanilla ice cream around. But not everyone leaves the ice cream parlor with a scoop of plain vanilla. How about chocolate? It can range from bitter to sweet, mild to rich, and pure to complex.

We found all of those qualities and more when we conducted a blind taste test on chocolate ice cream. We assembled the same five panelists, two administrators, and seven ice cream brands from the vanilla test. And, as with the last test, we cleansed our palates with lemon water and tasted in silence.

We sampled the most basic chocolate flavor from six local establishments and one grocery store brand that’s locally made too. The four criteria were identical to the vanilla test — intensity of flavor, balance of sweetness, mouthfeel, and aftertaste — rated on a scale from 0 (inedible) to 4 (perfection) for a possible score of 16.

Alma Guzman / Heavy Table
Alma Guzman / Heavy Table

Did the vanilla winner reign supreme here too, or did a different parlor come out on top? Here they are, from worst to best.

Crema Cafe
Bittersweet Chocolate

Intensity of flavor 1.0
Balance of sweetness 1.0
Mouthfeel 1.5
Aftertaste 1.1
Total 4.6

Interestingly, the bottom three from the vanilla taste test were also the bottom three here, albeit in a different order. For this ice cream, everyone found the flavor off-putting. One panelist called the flavor “unpleasant and too strong”; another noted it was bitter “but not in a good way,” and two others cited a lack of any chocolate flavor, saying “it tastes like it has been mixed with other flavors.” Two noticed an icy mouthfeel and an unpleasant aftertaste, while one found the aftertaste nicely sweet.

Pumphouse Creamery

Intensity of flavor 1.4
Balance of sweetness 1.5
Mouthfeel 1.4
Aftertaste 1.7
Total 6.0

This ice cream was quite different from the others (for example, it was the only one to contain bits of chocolate) and was, according to one panelist, “the hardest to rate, the hardest to get a handle on.” Many complained that it lacked intensity and was neither sweet nor chocolatey enough. Three panelists observed its “chewiness.” Some praised the aftertaste, calling it “pretty good” with a “nice chocolate oomph.”

Kemps Ice Cream

Alma Guzman / Heavy Table
Alma Guzman / Heavy Table
Intensity of flavor 1.8
Balance of sweetness 1.4
Mouthfeel 2.4
Aftertaste 1.7
Total 7.3

Panelists applauded the “good” and “very creamy” mouthfeel, though one thought it could be even creamier. But everyone disliked the intense sweetness, which “overpowered the chocolate flavor” and led into an intense aftertaste with hints of nutmeg and “more of the bad sweetness.”

Grand Ole Creamery

Intensity of flavor 1.5
Balance of sweetness 2.2
Mouthfeel 2.2
Aftertaste 1.7
Total 7.6

This ice cream was in the middle of the pack, and it was also middle-of-the-road in many ways. For one, the flavor was mild, and it was “very hard to taste any of the chocolate flavor,” explained one panelist. “If I close my eyes, this could be vanilla.” Another mentioned, “I’m not tasting much of anything very strongly: not too sweet, not cocoa-ey, mild aftertaste. I’d like this to be bolder in some way.” Two panelists also noted a crystalline mouthfeel. On the positive side, panelists liked the ice cream’s “light sweetness” that was reminiscent of a malt.

Edina Creamery

Intensity of flavor 2.3
Balance of sweetness 2.4
Mouthfeel 3.0
Aftertaste 2.0
Total 9.7

Panelists were split here on intensity of flavor: Some thought the intensity was too much, while others found it more subtle. Most agreed the aftertaste was quite one-dimensional because it lacked the ice cream’s original sweetness balance. But everyone liked the “rich,” “very creamy” mouthfeel and the “tasty, delicious, malty” flavor. The balance of sweetness was also a hit, with the “cocoa and sugar both present in equal, pleasing degrees.”

Sebastian Joe’s

Intensity of flavor 2.9
Balance of sweetness 2.7
Mouthfeel 2.1
Aftertaste 2.2
Total 9.9
Alma Guzman / Heavy Table
Alma Guzman / Heavy Table

For this cream, some panelists knocked off points for a “not very creamy” and “slightly chalky” mouthfeel and an aftertaste that lost much of the intense chocolate flavor. On the other hand, many praised the balance of sweetness that was a good blend of bitter and sweet. And everyone noticed this ice cream’s “really nice, intense chocolate flavor” that one panelist called “delicious!”

Izzy’s Ice Cream

Intensity of flavor 2.9
Balance of sweetness 2.8
Mouthfeel 2.9
Aftertaste 2.8
Total 11.4

Izzy’s was the clear winner, surging from fourth place in the vanilla taste test to first in this one. Everyone liked the dark, bittersweet-like chocolate flavor: It was rich without being overwhelmingly so, while the bitterness tempered the sweetness. Indeed, every panelist mentioned that the ice cream was “not very sweet” at all — in a good way. Panelists also loved the “dense, smooth, and creamy” mouthfeel and the “pleasing” aftertaste.

Now we know our favorite vanilla, our favorite chocolate soy ice cream, and our favorite chocolate. So get out there and sample your own favorites, either in a cup, packed into a homemade cone, or with an izzy on top.

Alma Guzman / Heavy Table
Alma Guzman / Heavy Table


  1. DarrickW

    Came across Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream while driving around south east Minnesota. I guess its out of Madison – but that’s local enough. Their ice cream is my favorite right now – extra creamy and smooth. The Zanzibar chocolate is to die for. Brewberry’s Coffee is the only place that serves it in the cities – but its worth the trip!!

  2. Eric

    Here’s the list of ingredients for Kemp’s Chocolate Ice Cream (from their website):


    If that tastes better than pure chocolate ice cream made with local cream and milk, chocolate, and that’s about it, then I’d say your tasters need a refresher course in what ice cream is SUPPOSED to taste like. But that’s just my opinion….

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