Kubé is a Black woman-owned artisanal, vegan ice cream manufacturer and social enterprise based out of Oakland. They are currently planning to move operations to a brand new 5,000 square-foot manufacturing facility at 1050 22nd Ave. near Oakland’s Brooklyn Basin and Embarcadero Cove. Kubé plans to begin operating out of their new facility and open their attached scoop shop by Summer 2022.
Kubé was founded by Kai Nortey and her husband Nee-Nueh, who are both lactose intolerant and vegan. Inspired by a family trip to Ghana, Kai found potential in the fresh coconut cream and fruits they ate every day. Based on their own experience and knowing that 90-percent of the African and Asian diaspora are lactose intolerant – on top of increasing numbers of lactose intolerance among all ethnicities – the Norteys found a solution to bland-tasting and icy non-dairy ice cream.
The result was a dairy-free, full fat plant-based ice cream alternative made from cold-pressed mature coconuts that would allow lactose intolerant and health-conscious people to enjoy ice cream again. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” Kai tells What Now SF. “We have a purpose to lead the next inclusive and full-circle regenerative economy with vegan, artisanal coconut ice cream manufacturing that transforms, inspires, and awakens lives.”
She further explains, “The mama cow is oppressed and tired of lactating year after year for human consumption, which results in her unnaturally shorter life span. It’s time people lay off the boob of the mama cow and get on the coconut. She is tired and drained! Kubé exists to restore life, health, joy, dignity, and equity back to people, animals, and the soil.”
As licensed manufacturers in Oakland, the Norteys scale production sustainably for the San Francisco Bay Area and have plans to expand to Los Angeles. They combine ancient methods with modern techniques utilizing automatic coconut equipment that enables them to de-shell 350 coconuts an hour. Unfortunately, there is no room for it at their current kitchen, which is why the transition to their new facility is so important.
After the coconuts are pressed and made into the ice cream base, they handcraft all the flavors, from toasting their own pecans, pressing their own key limes, and making their own caramel. Kai stresses the importance of cold pressing their own coconut cream, versus using imported coconut cream that is often processed with bleaching chemicals.
“At Kubé, we produce our own coconut cream from mature, organic coconuts, to make the best tasting plant-based ice cream. The cold-pressed full-fat coconut cream is blended with only mama earth seeds, fruit, and citrus essential oils,” Kai says, adding, “Our flavors are clean and bold, and customers do not taste any coconut flavor.” Kubé has since been known for their inspired flavors such as Salted Caramel & Cream, Key Lime, Cardamom, Orange Tumeric and more.
Kubé has a triple bottom line to address the most critical issues of our time: restorative economics and food justice, racial and gender equity, and ecology. They donate their coconut byproducts to urban farms in Oakland as a soil resource so urban farms grow more organic vegetables for the community. Kubé liberates people, animals, and the soil from systems of abuse by repairing the harm done with food justice and vegan ice cream manufacturing. They will also hire returning citizens and mothers returning to the workforce for social and personal transformation, while also paying higher than the minimum wage.
Kubé’s new facility and scoop shop will be part of a larger planned urban village called The Loom, which will feature an indoor-outdoor food plaza with open green space for guests to eat and relax. Kubé will be on Makers Street, where their tropical themed scoop shop will have a large window that invites customers to see inside the manufacturing facility and the state-of-the-art de-shelling machines and pressers used to make the “nice cream”.
Kubé’s big move is still in its very early stages of development, but until then you can find their ice cream at Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in December 2021. They also aspire to be at the Mandela Coop in 2022. For more information visit www.kubenicecream.com.
Correction: An earlier version of this article listed the business address as 288 9th Ave. It has been updated to reflect the correct address which is at 1050 22nd Ave. in Oakland. The article has also been updated with information about Kubé as a social enterprise, as well as clarified plans for The Loom.