The historic streets of Lavenham in Suffolk have a treasure among the timbered buildings. At The Parlour and kitchen gift shop, Jane Hadley serves up scoops of her delicious handmade ice cream. She explains what goes into her craft and how she feels about the responsibility and challenges of being an award-winning ice cream queen.
“When the sun’s out and people feel at ease, sales of my ice cream soar. When customers say lovely things about how good it is, that makes me happy and know I’m doing the right thing.
“It all begins with my choice of ingredients: milk and cream from a dairy in Wickford, Essex; free-range eggs from Assington; and raw cane sugar. Then choosing and adding the flavours is my labour of love.
“Fruits take the most time to prepare, but they probably give me the most pleasure to offer. I use local fruits and cook, purée, and sieve them myself before combing into the ice cream. In early summer, I’ll be out early to pick and infuse elderflower. My chocolate flavours come from Pump Street in Orford or Tosier in Little Blakenham.
“My best-selling ice cream in 2023 is the same as for the last 15 years: honeycomb. I have customers in their mid-20s who come for a scoop or two, remembering it from their childhood.
“I offer people more than ice cream or a delicious coffee, tea or satisfying hot chocolate – mine won the Academy of Chocolate Award last year. It’s made with Solomon Island and Balian chocolate, which I chose for their amazing balance of flavours.
“Here in The Parlour, I give you somewhere special to talk. Friends, couples, families catching up over a cup, cone, or a tub. Very often, I find that people who don’t already know each other will start up a conversation. That’s the advantage of being in a small place. And it does people good to talk.
“My ice cream is a treat. I notice that more customers are asking to share. Perhaps they can’t afford to eat out in a restaurant, but a walk around lovely Lavenham is free and an ice cream in the parlour or some to take home and eat from their freezer makes their trip out and time together special.
“To be honest, this business is very hard work. I do everything myself. I start making ice cream by 6am, making the custard or potting up by 8.15, here by 9, serving all day, and then when I’ve finished here at 6pm, I have the paperwork side of things to keep on top of. It’s relentless.
“I know I must make some time for me to recharge a little. My relaxation is a lovely long walk with my dogs. Looking through cookery books and magazines cheers me up and gives me inspiration.
“Feeling good about this place and what I serve my customers is so important to me. This is my happy place.”
• The Parlour, 91 High Street, Lavenham, Sudbury, CO10 9PZ
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