Unlike Willy Wonka’s, you don’t need a one-in-a-million gold ticket to get inside the COWS CREAMERY Factory on Prince Edward Island on Canada’s east coast. You don’t even need a reservation. For a sneak peak at the production of the world’s best ice cream, you just show up at the facility, don a paper cap and follow the tour guide through the inner chambers of nirvana. The ice-cream company and award-winning cheesemaker just started offering outside looks into the inner workings of its newest facility in June 2009.
Through a window you can see workers, sometimes wearing hats with those loopy, distinctive “COWS” logos, bustling around gleaming silver machines. COWS is made from an old PEI family recipe—the precise alchemy’s closely guarded—but the tour lets you in on a few trade secrets.
You start with cows that feed on grass from island farms for their whole lives, then you finesse the rest here on the production end. Most industrial ice-cream makers blow into the product with a four-bladed gadget called a dasher that contains a whipper. But look, no whipper. No whipper, slow turn—that’s what makes superpremium ice cream. Because less air equals more… everything else.
And, wait a sec! This operation isn’t fully automated. That’s a live person hand-feeding the English toffee pieces, Belgian chocolate flakes and local PEI strawberries into the butterfat-rich ice cream as it spools from the vat. “People are surprised to see that,” says Tracy Stretch, who is the tour manager for COWS CREAMERY Factory Tours. “But it’s the only way to distribute them evenly, so you get something in every bite.”
At the start of the tour, visitors get a sample of COWS CREAMERY Extra- Old Cheddar, and at the end, you get a sample of the ice cream, such as the signature Wowie Cowie and Gooey Mooey—or any of the other 34 ice cream flavours that roll off the line and on to 10 different locations: 15,000 buckets a year.
Only in Canada? Say it ain’t so, cow.
Tours run daily every 30 minutes through the end of October—and by appointment from November through June.
There is also a COWS Ice Cream & Retail location right on the historic Waterfront at Peake’s Quay in Charlottetown, PEI. Tel. 902-370-3155.