Nothing beats a childhood foodie memory – except if you give said food a sophisticated (yet still-so-yummy) edge to it. Las Paletas artisan lollies are a classic example of this and, even down to their business card (an ice-cream stick – what else?), the ‘old-school cool’ factor of these lollies just keeps jumping up in increments.
It all started very simply. A woman wanted to bring a taste of home (Colombia) to a South African dinner party and decided to make some homemade lollies (‘las paletas’ in Spanish). “Everyone loved them so much that they said we should sell them,” explains co-owner Diana Chavarro. “We took the bull by the horns and called a few markets the next day,” interjects Jason Sandell, her other half (of the business and in real life). They made 120 lollies and were sold out before lunchtime.
It is easy to understand why, though – all of their lollies are made with 100 per cent real fruit and fresh dairy with no additives or colourants. “I just made them how I would at home: using fresh fruit, a dash of water, a sprinkle of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice,” adds Diana, proving that sometimes the best foods (including the indulgent ones) are those left as natural as possible. Their range of flavours is so phenomenal (in-season ingredients play a big part in this) that it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite. On the ‘Dairy’ side, think Guava Cheesecake (their first flavour and still a bestseller), Strawberries and Cream, Lindt and Raspberries and even Spiced Mango Lassi. Under ‘Sorbets’, Coconut
Lemonade is a nod to Diana’s dad’s favourite summer drink back at home. They’ve even incorporated fresh herbs and spices in lollies such as Pineapple and Chilli, and Watermelon and Mint.
During the very early hours of the morning, particularly as the seasons change, Jason can be found at this farm or that, literally hand-picking the produce. “We only use fruit that is at its best and, often, I’ll call Diana, excitedly asking, ‘Honey, can you do something with this?’” This was exactly how their Roasted Peaches and Coconut lolly came about. For the couple, what started as a dinner-party dessert in a small home kitchen and morphed into a food-market staple – they went from being able to make 40 to 2 000 lollies a day when they imported their first machine – has turned into an ever-popular local favourite. They have outgrown their first factory space and can make 7 500 a day as they now sell at delis and in various Pick n Pay stores in the Western Cape.
“We got a call from someone at Pick n Pay last year,” says Jason. “We took them about 20 flavours and they loved them so much, they asked if we could sell them immediately in their stores,” he divulges. In Joburg, things are a little more mobile – quite literally. They have a food truck (we love them even more now) and Thirst Bar Services is their agent, bringing all things ice cool to events around the city. “The food truck has given us an incredible presence in Joburg – I get a few calls a week from people who have seen the truck,” adds Diana. Las Paletas is also available in Durban for private and public events, via Thirst Bar Services Durban.
Just one peek at their lollies proves that we definitely eat with our eyes first. “Our lollies have so many weird and wonderful ‘looks’ and flavours, that they become a real talking point at celebrations. They are also easy to serve and can be personalised for corporates,” explains Diana. Concludes Jason: “I think our lollies are also just unexpected – and it’s amazing to see people’s faces light up when they see them.”