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Why Is Mexico’s Ice Cream Culture Blowing Up?

Ice cream has a long history, one going back four thousand years and traversing the globe. And while enthusiasts planning to hit up some of the world’s best or most famous ice cream parlors might head to Italy, they should reconsider their plans and head south of the border instead. Why? Because Oaxaca, Mexico’s ice cream is among the best in the world.

To bone up on our history we stopped at the Oaxaca Ice Cream Museum (Museo de las Nieves), a museum that commemorates the area’s one hundred and fifty years of delicious tradition. The story starts in a village called La Neveria, in the Sierra Norte mountains above the Oaxaca valley, almost nine thousand feet above sea level. 

The village, which is a vertigo-inducing two-hour drive from the city, is known for cold temperatures that once made ice a prime industry. It was here that Doña María Manolo first made ice cream in 1857.

As in China and Europe, traditional Oaxacan ice cream was primarily fruit-based, with both milk and water preparations developing early on. The Manolo family built their business on ice cream, developing more than 100 receipts sold at various stores and carts around town. Their most famous? Leche quemada or burnt milk, “developed” when Doña María, attempting to make a vanilla custard ice, accidentally burnt it in the pot.

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