Purveyors of quality handmade gelato and sorbet Vivi Dolce have just opened their first bricks-and-mortar store in Central Park, sharing the same space as CC Sweets. I caught up with owner and creative mastermind Vivienne Li for a chat about the business and their innovative flavors.

How did you get into the gelato business in the first place?
My background is in PR and marketing. I took a career break and decided I wanted to create something of my own, something creative, but also genuine and authentic. I happened to visit a famous gelato store in Toronto and really felt inspired by the range or flavors. I did some online research and discovered that really the only limit to the flavors of gelato you can create is your imagination; that’s when I decided it was what I want to do. After that I studied gelato at the Carpigiani Institute in Italy.

When I came back to Beijing I started to source the ingredients, which is really quite challenging in China. Eventually I found a good quality organic milk supplier [Green Farm] and was able to get to work. At that time it was just me and one assistant working out of a small studio! Now we have 10 employees.

Why did you decide to start the business on WeChat?
The business all started from a single point – me. When I came back to Beijing and started making gelato I was just selling to my friends and we were all sharing via WeChat, so I just decided to expand it and make it a formal platform.  It’s been great for us to attract Chinese customers.

Why did you decide to open a bricks-and-mortar store alongside your WeChat business?
When you have an online business there is a certain distance from the customer, especially for a food and beverage company; people can see pictures of your products but they can’t try them. An offline store really allows them to get to know you and your products.

And why open in Central Park specifically?
Handmade gelato in China is still quite a new concept. When you tell people that everything is made from scratch with fresh ingredients and that the shelf life is only seven days, they don’t necessarily understand. The client base in the Central Park area is more mature, so I don’t have to do as much market education!

What’s the difference between gelato and ice cream?
Gelato is freshly made and has a fairly short shelf life. The formula for gelato is quite strictly defined in terms of the fat and sugar content, so that’s why you’ll find that our gelato is not quite as sweet and sickly as some ice creams.

What new flavors are you promoting at the moment?
For July and August, our focus is on flower-based flavors. So we have white chocolate and rose, lavender and milk, and grapefruit and elderflower. We don’t use any artificial flavoring or coloring, for example, the rose flavor is infused from organic roses from Yunnan.

Sample up to three flavors in store for RMB 35 or pick up a 500g carton to take home for RMB 135. If you read Chinese, check out their WeChat at vividolce for online order information.

Vivi Dolce (same store as CC Sweets)
Unit 109, Bldg 11, Central Park, 6 Chaoyangmen Waidajie, Chaoyang District (6533 6973)

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Photos: Robynne Tindall, Vivi Dolce

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