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It’s Not a Snow Cone!

I don’t blame people who haven’t had authentic Hawaiian shave ice refer to our product as a “snow cone.” You can’t hold people responsible for what they have not experienced. So, let me wax eloquent here on the basic differences between a fluffy shave ice and a crunchy snow cone.

Let’s start with the basics. Both products are made of ice. Both have flavored syrups. Uh, let’s see. Both are cold (but that’s really because of point number one, they are both made of ice).

Made of Ice

Snow cones and shave ice are both ice-based. You make a snow cone by crushing ice into little pieces. It’s kind of like the “crushed ice” setting on your freezer’s ice maker, but more consistent and a little finer. There are machines for home or commercial use that you can buy to get the ice crushed into such a way that you can stick it into a paper cone.

Shave ice (or shaved ice) is, as it sounds, shaved off of a block of ice. While this was once accomplished with long, sharp blades, it now happens with large machines that can hold a block of ice, spin it around really fast, and a blade comes up at the bottom of the ice block and shaves fine layer after fine layer off the block.
There are a few nuances here as well. There is such a thing as shaved ice made from ice cubes. The machines that do that are called “ice cube shavers” and they produce a decent quality product, finer than the crushed ice of a snow cone. I believe that the best shave ice comes off of actual blocks of ice (those machines are “block ice shavers”), although they do work more slowly than cube shavers.

Flavored with Syrup

I was in my local restaurant supply store the other day signing up for an account under the Mauna Snoa name. When the front desk person saw what kind of business it was (my application actually said “Mauna Snoa Shave Ice”), she helpfully pointed me to the back of the store where she told me there were some flavored syrups for snow cones. When I made my way around to the back, I saw gallon jugs of Hawaiian Classic (or something similar) ready-to-use syrup. The selection was slim to begin with, maybe 8-10 flavors. Worst of all, when I looked at the ingredients, the first one was high fructose corn syrup. Gross, but that’s what they’re putting on your snow cone.

Here at Mauna Snoa, we have been through a meticulous process to select the best vendor of authentic Hawaiian flavors. We believe one of the differentiators in a high quality shave ice product is the realism of the flavor. We have selected a vendor that we are confident will provide the absolute highest quality product. Are they the cheapest? No way, but it’s worth it for the quality we will be getting. We purchase freshly-made concentrates, then mix them with 100% pure cane sugar and crystal clear artesian water to produce flavorful syrups for our shave ice.

What Else?

You know when you get a snow cone, and the syrup (with HFCS) all goes to the bottom of the paper cone? Yeah, that’s because ice is not absorbent. Know what is absorbent? Snow. A good quality shave ice absorbs the syrup so you’re eating flavor all the way down. In fact, sometimes the syrup doesn’t make it all the way to the bottom of the shave ice cup, but it usually migrates down the further you eat.

Ever gotten any add-ons to your snow cone? Ice cream, for example? Me neither. However, shave ice has many options for add-ons that make a great product even better. You can get ice cream in the bottom, which is out of this world, a snowcap on top for some additional creaminess, or other options that are favored in the Islands like mochi balls, azuki beans and li hing mui powder. You gotta try them!


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