Ice cream tasting sessions, including this one in Stocking Hall on April 10, took place on the Ithaca and Geneva campuses April 10-15.

Tea ice cream scoops Freedom of Expression competition

An ice cream inspired by the conversations that flow every day, around the world, over simple cups of tea won Cornell’s annual ice cream competition.

Freedom of Expression

Brewing CommuniTea, an Earl Grey tea ice cream with caramel swirls and buttery shortbread pieces, won out over two other ice cream flavors in a vote on the Ithaca and Geneva campuses April 10-15. Nearly 4,000 students, staff, faculty and alumni sampled the student-developed ice creams inspired by Cornell’s Freedom of Expression theme year.

The team is made of mostly first-year students. “It’s really empowering to us to know that all of our hard work has paid off, even with the little experience that we do have in food science,” said Madeleine Rodoski ’27, a food science major (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) and a member of the winning team. “In the end, we did a pretty good job of combining all of our ideas into one final product.”

Every year, student teams create ice creams as part of the Science and Technology of Foods introductory class in the Department of Food Science in CALS, taught by Chris Loss ’96, M.S. ’01, Ph.D. ’06, the Louis Pasteur Lecturer in Food Science. The course covers food processes, such as pasteurization, as well as food safety, sensory evaluation, packaging, and halal and kosher food preparation.

During the ice cream section of the course, the winning team created a group chat where they discussed each member’s idea for a flavor, presented in-person on each idea, then put the concepts to a vote.

Rodoski discovered that the Cornell Dairy Bar, where the competing flavors would be served, had never served a tea-oriented flavor before. She came up with the idea for what would become Brewing CommuniTea.

“She nailed it right away with the tea, shortbread and caramel,” said teammate Marcus Iong ’27, a food science major (CALS). “And we never ended up changing that three. That trifecta, we stuck with. She’s the MVP when it comes to making up the flavor.”

A team of mostly freshman created Brewing CommuniTea, an Earl Grey tea ice cream with caramel swirls and buttery shortbread pieces that won the annual ice cream competition.

Rodoski initially thought of food-related events, which led her to a Boston Tea Party concept. But she and the team wanted the idea to be more inclusive, she said. “We didn’t think that the Boston Tea Party would encompass the whole student body of Cornell,” she said.

Added Demetra Sela ’27, a food science major (CALS), “Rather than just an America-centered event, we thought, how could we expand it? So we thought about the idea of tea itself, and how tea really acts as this unifying event, essentially, and people of all different cultures share different types of tea.”

The most challenging aspect was getting the proportion of tea flavoring right – and how to deal with shortbread cookie pieces that became soggy when mixed in, said Lucy Clarke ’27, also a food science major (CALS).

“We decided to freeze the shortbread beforehand and then mix it in so it kept its composition and it was kind of a little bit more crunchy, which is what we were going for,” Clarke said. “On our second trial, we basically got it almost perfect.”

The other team members are Bill Chen ’27, Rica Craig ’24, Erin DeHollander ’27, Erin Goldsmith ’27, Min Kwon ’27, Ava Maduro ’27, Aya Rosen ’27 and Jeffrey Xue ’27.

The other finalist flavors were:

  • Coming Out of Your Shell, a bright peachy-blush, raspberry-citrus ice cream with dark chocolate ribbons spun inside, tucked beneath a hardened chocolate shell. The creators encouraged eaters to express themselves and “come out of your shell.”
  • Toni S’Morrison, which pays homage to Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, M.A. ’55. The flavor emulates eating s’mores around a campfire, a dessert that brings different tastes together through the flame of artistic expression, according to the group’s description.

The winning ice cream will be served on campus this semester, available during Commencement and Reunion. All three finalist ice cream flavors are on sale now at the Cornell Dairy Bar.

Ice-cream tasters sample all three student-produced ice creams during a tasting session in Willard Straight Hall on April 11.

Before Iong knew his team won, he said they’d be proud if their ice cream was victorious – and their families would too. “Parents, they’re like, ‘How’s my kid doing? How’s my child doing?’ If they were to come to the Dairy Bar and try this flavor, they’ll say, ‘Oh, my kid’s doing alright.’”

Master’s student Irene Li sampled the ice creams during a tasting session April 11 at Willard Straight Hall. Brewing CommuniTea was her favorite, she said. “I think it’s not so sweet, and the tea – you can taste it.”

And the flavor linked to her thoughts about freedom of expression on campus, she said.

“Based on my experience so far, in our lectures, in our classes, I think I am free to talk about anything that I want,” she said. “I can feel the freedom to express my own opinions and I can feel the respect from the professors and the students at Cornell.”

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Lindsey Knewstub