My job is to make ice cream with local ingredients

Sage Creamery favorites include vanilla, chocolate, honey, fruit, coffee and tea.
09 22 Sage Oil Factory My Job
Photo: Aaron Yoshino

Name: Zachary Villanueva
Age: 32
Work: Ice cream maker and co-founder of Sage Creamery

Start: “Growing up, my dad and mom always made sure we had dessert in the fridge. The ice cream tub was one of them.”

His passion for ice cream continued beyond childhood, and in 2016 he began making it at home for family and friends. He thought it was much better than what is sold in stores.

Company origin: “The idea for Sage Creamery came about after my brother passed away in 2018. He had cancer, and it was very unexpected: four months after the diagnosis, he passed away.”

Villanueva created the business in honor of his brother. His brother’s name was Daniel, but he was wise beyond his years, so people called him “The Wise Man”.

Zachary Villanueva worked full-time at Kō Hana Distillers, but the pandemic gave him more time to make ice cream and he eventually made the company his full-time job.

Ingredients: “For things like vanilla, chocolate, coffee, honey and even tea, we will be working with other vendors here in Hawaii and collaborating with them to create flavors. Our vanilla comes from Laie Vanilla Co. Our coffee is from Kailua at ChadLou’s Coffee Roasters and our honey is from Mānoa Honey & Mead. We focus on the ingredients and highlight them through the ice cream.”

How it’s done: “Our ice cream base is a mixture of milk, cream, sugar and egg yolks. We purée fruit and sometimes brew lavender flowers or vanilla pods for days and let those flavors blend into ice cream. Sometimes we also make inclusions – what you add to your ice cream after it’s whipped.”

Flavors: Ice cream flavors are mostly chosen based on the time of year and what Villanueva and his colleagues like to eat.

“My favorite flavor is vanilla ice cream, and being able to get it from the North Shore is a big plus for us.”

They also pay attention to other businesses and their successes. Their mango cheesecake ice cream was inspired by the popular mango cheesecake dessert at Diamond Head Market & Grill, Villanueva’s wife’s family business where the couple previously worked.

“Our most recent collaboration was with Holey Grail Donuts, known for their maple glaze donuts. So we made vanilla ice cream with maple syrup.”

Growth: “When we started we made ice cream in our garage, then we grew up and eventually moved into our own commercial kitchen.”

The company now sells its products at farmers’ markets in Oahu. Soon there will be a store in Hoopili and an ice cream truck.

Motivation: “After all, it’s ice cream. We work to make people happy. If they are happy, then we are happy.”

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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