Naturally made using sustainable methods, full of Cornish flavour and flair and inspired by the mythical, breath-taking landscape that surrounds their home, we discovered what life is like for the family behind one of Cornwall’s most beloved ice creams, Moomaid of Zennor.
Whilst the Moomaid of Zennor isn’t known for a beauty that lures local sailors into the sea like her fellow Zennor Mermaid, she is known for having an exceptional ice cream that has been tantalising the taste buds of Cornwall for over ten years. What started as an attempt to diversify on the family dairy farm has grown into a successful business that has seen this charming, mythical character become known throughout the county and beyond.
Run by Rob Monies, along with the help of his family, Moomaid Ice Cream was and still is produced at Tremedda Dairy Farm. Nestled in the emerald grasslands of Zennor, Tremedda Farm has been in the Monies family for four generations when in 1905, fearless Great Grandmother Elsie Grigg in her 20s persuaded her parents to move to the farm from Scotland to Cornwall so she could be a farmer. To this day, the farm still uses traditional and sustainable methods of farming.
With views to Patrick Heron’s former home The Eagle’s Nest, and the village of Zennor to call home, the farm and the Monies family have made the most of the stunning land they live in.
“We literally walk the milk across in buckets from the dairy,” explains Rob, “we’re in the process of installing a pipe to bring it over to the ice cream room… carrying it can get pretty tiring.”
It all began in 2006, when Rob’s eldest brother Nicky, who runs the farm along with their mother Bridget, saw an opportunity to expand their dairy farm into something bigger. The family soon realised that delving into the world of Cornwall’s foodie culture would be both demanding and challenging, and so Rob took over the ice cream side of the farm on a full-time basis. Today, he divides his time between life in London with his wife Jemima and their two young children and Moomaid production on the farm.
“From March to September I’m mainly on site on the farm. I do a lot of the making as well as running the business.” says Rob “Winter is quieter, so I spend my time researching new flavours, sourcing ingredients and preparing for the coming year.”
Made in a small, but well kitted out manufacturing room on the farm, it’s a short walk between cow and creamery, and amongst the steady stream of tubs and cones leaving the site daily, there’s plenty more going on that again uses the resources the family’s stunning homeland provides. The youngest of the family, Pippa, who works in the Moomaid office in the week, also runs her own wild flower business on the farm, Zennor Wild, whilst younger brother Ruaraidh, when he’s not busy with the logistics side of the Moomaid empire, is a photographer.
When it comes to Moomaid’s shop expansion across Cornwall, that’s eldest sister Sarah’s job. She runs the Moomaid parlour business with her husband John and the help of sister Rosie. Bridget and Nicky still manage the working dairy farm as well as running a stunning Bed & Breakfast, within a converted Grade II listed granite barn that used to house the original milking parlour. So all the family, who bar Rob and Jemima, still live on the farm have played a part in helping shape Moomaid into the staple ice cream brand it is today.
“It’s a very foodie family,” explains Rob’s wife, Jemima, “Before I’ve even got to the farm in the morning, Bridget has made scones, cakes, bread… whilst probably looking after at least two of her eight grandchildren. Sarah makes all the homemade cakes for the ice cream parlours. Everything here revolves around food.”
Mixed with milk from the farm’s Friesian Holstein herd, combined with Cornish clotted or double cream, the ice cream is known for its creamy texture that’s packed with natural ingredients and flavours which Moomaid are passionate about sticking to, as Rob explains,
“People sometimes come in to the parlours asking for bubblegum flavour, but that just isn’t our brand. All our flavours are natural. We sometimes get comments that our ice cream is a little pale, but again it’s because everything we use is natural.
“I buy pure Italian pistachio paste for our Pistachio ice cream. People want real flavour. I was in the St Ives parlour a couple of weeks ago and an American couple came in and commented on how nice it was to have a pistachio ice cream made with real pistachio nuts.”
The authenticity of flavours is something Rob takes his time with, from Dulce de Leche caramel from South America to strawberries and sea salt from Cornwall. Some of their ice cream flavours have gained instant fame, such as their trademark flavour Shipwreck© combining sea salt ice cream with Dulce de Leche and honeycomb. There are also more unusual but equally moreish options, such as Espresso Martini, Cherry & Almond, and Crème Fraiche & Lemon Curd. Their sorbets have also gained recognition, from indulgently thick scoops such as Chocolate Sorbet to light and refreshing tastes seen in Prosecco, Raspberry, and Passionfruit. At their St Ives parlour, Moomaid is known for their piled high mouth-watering sundaes, a testament to the team’s constant quest for new flavour combinations and classic creations with contemporary twists.
“People love the Moomaid Mess sundae,” says Rob, “It’s raspberries, meringue, chocolate and hazelnuts, it’s really good.”
Of course, making one of Cornwall’s best-known treats isn’t easy and a risk that the Monies family knew could have resulted in huge consequences for their small dairy farm.
“Lots of farms have tried to do ice cream,” Rob says, “but few have succeeded. It was a big risk to take and we had to learn on the go. It’s been challenging but also exciting.”
Celebrating 10 years next year, the Moomaid parlours in St Ives and Porthtowan have become a quintessential part of local life and must-go ice cream spots for visitors from all over the world, and are sold in shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels across the county, with thirty sumptuous flavours under their belt. The ice cream has seen further success as being one of four Cornish ice cream brands sold in the Great Cornish Food Store in Truro. Now, the family are looking to expand further, with two more parlours in the pipeline to open in West Penwith.
“We’ve also got Moomaid in the Field in summer which overlooks the farm and the sea,” Jemima adds, “Imagine having been on a long journey down to Cornwall and you see a sign for ice cream and cream teas on the side of the road. People also drive out especially for it, the views are amazing and when you’ve got children it’s something fun to do for an afternoon.”
The team are also exploring new ideas that cater to everyone, and have just launched Mini Vanilla, a delicious vanilla ice cream that acts as a slightly healthier option for times when ice cream is on the menu every day, which Rob explains here,
“It’s made with less sugar… unrefined demerara sugar, which is slightly better for you than regular sugar and is made with kids in mind. It’s also got less fat content than our standard recipe. ”
Despite the busy days and constant adventures, family life on Tremedda still takes priority in this mini hamlet of innovation. Meals are enjoyed crowded around the kitchen table, the large garden adorned in trees and flowers is home to toys and swings and from the smell of the wild flowers being prepared in the entrance porch and the cows filing in for milking, to a busy morning serving guests at breakfast and phones ringing non-stop, days in this enchanting part of Cornwall still seem inescapably peaceful. No doubt this natural, wild and fresh way of life is a big contributor to everything that makes Moomaid of Zennor as legendary as it is today.
Find the Moomaid Parlours at…
St Ives Harbour
1 Wharf Road
10am – 5/8pm
Closed: November to March
Moomaid in the Field
Overlooks Tremedda Farm on the coast between Zennor and St Ives
Open June to October (weather dependent).
All photos credited to and supplied by Ruaraidh Monies©.