Looking back on the early years of Sweet Cup Gelato

The woman who inspires me daily; me and my Mom.

The woman who inspires me daily; me and my Mom.

This year marks seven years for Sweet Cup Gelato and Sorbet Originale of creating, learning, and growing with the communities we serve in Houston, TX. One of my goals this year is to tell our story—the story of our origins; the story behind my flavors and menu items; what inspires me; and why I love what we do. It’s only fitting to begin by telling you how an idea blossomed from my mom’s words of strength and how I admire her maternal abilities to make something beautiful out of what we had. These memories are inspiration that fuel my heart every day. I do my best to honor my mother and all of myfamily by sharing a piece of our roots and recipes in my gelato.

I hope you’ll continue to journey with us, and I’m so grateful that you’re here.

It all started when I visited Europe and fell in love with Italy. I fell in love with the language as my husband and I strolled down the cobblestone streets; I fell in love with the people and the culture; and naturally, I fell in love with the gelato.

Back home, I couldn’t find the Italian gelato I so dearly loved, so I decided to learn how to make it. I read every book I could find, studied dairy science, and bought myself a Cuisinart ice cream maker to begin experimenting.

My expertise grew with every batch I made. I brought batches to dinner parties, and family and friends began to rally around my new craft. They told me I could open my own shop, and a dream was born.

In 2010, I took my next step and went to Bologna, Italy to study the art of gelato and frozen dessert making. I loved every second and realized how far I’d come from the Cuisinart days. I came home with an education, refined skills, and a burning passion to develop my ideas into recipes.

Fast forward to 2011; I stumbled on an abandoned ice cream shop for lease off Montrose Boulevard—one of my favorite neighborhoods of Houston. I immediately contacted the leasing managers and they immediately told me no. They told me no several times and eventually stopped taking my call. I returned week after week to try and sell them on my dream. And week after week, they told me no.

But I persisted. I met with Claire Smith, owner of [the now shuttered] next-door Woodbar, Canopy, and Alice Blue, to tell her my story. With that meeting, I convinced Smith and she vouched for me and my dreams. The next day, the landlords gave me a 5-minute meeting, and I finally landed my scoop shop space.

The flavors that I create for that very scoop shop, and now our second scoop shop in Garden Oaks, all come from inspiration and values that my mother and father instilled in me; the experiences I’ve endured; the travels I’ve journeyed; and the lessons and memories from growing up in Texas.

One memory that I dearly love is the memory of my mother’s orange peel cookies. As kids, my brother and I would beg for chocolate chip cookies, but our mom would to tell us no because we couldn’t afford to buy chocolate chips. Instead, mom promised us something else. Our family had oranges that week and mom took the orange peels, cooked them down, and then candied them to make a simple and savory cookie.

To this day, these cookies are one of my favorites because of its humble beginnings. Our family grew up poor, without simple luxuries and sometimes even necessities, and these cookies are just one example of my mom’s creative nurture.

One of our favorite flavors is the Pomegranate Rose. The pomegranate fruit is prevalent in Persian cooking—my mom’s home country—and rose water is a staple in desserts. It makes me laugh thinking back as a kid and hating the dishes my mom would make with these flavors and her telling me, “open your mind and it’ll open so many doors.”

Today, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, I can’t help but feel like mom was right all those years ago and that her spirit and determination is what helped me open that very first door on Montrose Boulevard.

Jasmine Chida, owner of Sweet Cup Gelato & Sorbet Originale, scooping the Pomegranate Rose flavor (photos by Christina Martinez).