Trevor Morris and Chris Tan are the uniquely comedic and inspirational geniuses behind Gelateria Naia. Founded in Berkeley, Naia’s creative culinary creations are now available all over the Bay and beyond in seasonal flavors, like Guavasteen, Key Lime, and Blood Orange, and favorite staples, like Blue Bottle Coffee, St. George’s Spirits Whiskey, and, of course, TCHO Chocolate. All sourced from the most fresh, local ingredients. And all mouth-wateringly delicious. Together, Chris & Trevor have created what’s undoubtedly the best gelato in the Bay Area. And what’s equally undoubtedly another equally perfect pair — Gelateria Naia & TCHO.
Why start Gelateria Naia?
Trevor had travelled to Italy. “I saw — and tasted! — gelato all over the country! I had the best, the worst, and everything in between. But, on the plane ride back, I wondered: ‘Why can’t I find decent gelato in the Bay Area?’” Inspiration struck.
Meanwhile, Chris was pondering the same. But he was also wondering why he could not find decent Thai food in the Bay Area. Being Director of Engineering at a high-tech start-up, 9/11 had really shaken up the company for the worse. As he looked to pursuing a dream in food, Chris had a decision to make — Gelato or Thai? Gelato seemed easier, and the decision was made.
Chris had the capital, Trevor had the vision and restaurant industry experience, and they both had the passion to make the best gelato the Bay Area has ever seen.
How does Gelateria Naia use TCHO?
“We start with the Chocolatey cacao liquor from Ghana rather than a finished coverture or chocolate,” they explained. Usually, ice cream or gelato companies will buy the coverture or chocolate — ready-made, already sweetened with sugar. But since Naia crafts the TCHO flavor from scratch and doesn’t use off-the-shelf ice cream bases, Naia can fine tune their TCHO Gelato to be as dark as possible, controlling both sweetness, flavor notes of the TCHO Chocolatey blend, and keeping a close watch on gelato’s technical points like freezing point depression and total solids.
The result is their TCHO Gelato is so versatile Naia uses it by blending it with “mostly all our chocolate flavors — Gianduja, malt flavors, and all 22 different flavors on Valentine’s Day.”
Wait — 22 different chocolate gelato flavors on Valentine’s Day? Seriously?! Seriously. This comes straight from their February 14 blog: “Come by any of our stores and indulge with a loved one in flavors like Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Orange and Chocolate Marzipan. Or maybe you prefer our more passionate flavors like Cioccolato Mortale (Italian for “death by chocolate”), Bacio (Italian for “kiss”), and Romeo & Juliet.” Ah, yes. We’ll take two scoops of the Romeo & Juliet, please. But, to waffle cone or not to waffle cone — that will be the question.
Another reason to use TCHO?
“One of the great things about using local is that we can talk to the experts. We know gelato. If we want to incorporate chocolate, we talk to chocolate experts like Brad from TCHO. If we want to use single-malt whiskey, we talk to a whiskey expert like Dave from St. George Spirits.”
So what’s your relationship with Brad Kintzer, our Chief Chocolate Maker, like?
“We’ve got a close relationship with Brad. We bounce ideas off each other constantly…that’s where the idea for Snowflake Gelato came from. Brad was talking about working and struggling with sugar , sugar bloom, and sugar crystallization…and white chocolate gelato was in high demand, especially around Christmas time. But, no matter what, it always just tasted ‘eh – just okay’. We wanted to make it better. So, we thought, what could make white chocolate gelato better? Sugar crystals that would crunch in your mouth… just like a snowflake.”
So Trevor and Chris aren’t just in the business of making gelato, they’re in the business of making simple, ordinary ingredients into something extraordinary.
And, we’ve been warned by Trevor…”Some of the flavors Brad comes up with have come first from me…so see if I came to pick up any cacao liquor that day!”
What are some of your most out-there kind of flavors?
“The weirdest? Probably our St. George Spirits Absinthe flavor.”
Naia also has a seasonal Guavasteen, (also known as a fejoia or pineapple guava) sorbetto whichi comes with the most interesting local story. “This Berkeley couple,” Trevor explains, “Mr. And Mrs. Grossman, have a guavasteen tree growing in their backyard. They would sell to the Guavasteens to Berkeley Bowl but they noticed the fruit did’t sell well. So the couple dropped some guavasteens off to Gelateria Naia and asked if we could make sorbetto out of them.”
And they did. Naia’s Guavasteen sorbetto is now in huge demand during guavasteen season and every year Naia buys the entire tree.
Where can we get our Gelateria Naia fix?
Gelateria Naia has shops in San Francisco’s North Beach and Walnut Creek and is available in select Whole Foods, specialty markets, and shops around the Bay Area. For a full list of where you can find Gelateria Naia products, visit gelaterianaia.com.
Various Bar Gelato flavors — including, of course, TCHO Chocolate — are also available at TCHO’s Pier 17 shop. Expert tip: try one dipped into a shot of TCHO’s European-style drinking chocolate!