The History of Shave Ice

Hawaiin shave ice as we know it comes from other humble beginnings. Japanese immigrants that moved to the Hawaiin islands to work the plantations around the turn of the twentieth century brought with them the notion of mixing fruit syrup and purees with finely crushed ice to create a refreshing and tasty treat.

Invented by Japanese Immigrants

These immigrant workers were delighted at the abundance of exotics fruits and sugars that they found in their new home, and before long were developing unique and delicious flavors for their syrups. At first, machetes were used to shave chunks of ice into a cup and then the homemade syrups were added. Soon, hand-cranked drill presses were modified to accommodate large blocks of ice, which were then finely shaved in the manner we see today.

Shave Ice is a Lahaina Tradition

Every Sunday, laborers on Maui working the coffee and pineapple plantations around Lahaina would congregate in town and make "shave ice" for their families and friends. It was during these gatherings that the identity of Lahaina and its people were forged.

The history of the west side of Maui was shaped by the effects of the plantations, and Hawaiin shave ice is one of the finer legacies of that romantic and bygone era. 

A History of Culinary Innovation

With the spread of electricity and the advent of refrigeration, modern shave ice has come a long way from its modest origins. Machines can now shave ice to such a degree that the snowflakes are softer and more absorbent than ever before. Syrups don't just cover the ice anymore; they become the ice. Exploration into new flavor possibilities and the way they dance across the palate has made the shave ice experience all the more exciting. 

And Amazing Flavors

Natural fruit flavors like guava, strawberry, and the immensely popular orange mango always delight anyone fortunate enough to encounter them. A scoop of ice cream at the bottom is the wave of the future, and with the creamy exquisiteness of Roselani's Macnut and Divine Haupia Coconut, it's easy to see why. Japanese sweet azuki beaks and gummi bears add variety to the heart of the shave ice. Crown the top with a snowcap of sweetened condensed milk or a decadent swirl of strawberry cinnamon lava to turn your shave ice into a treat of unparalleled indulgence. 

Breakwall Shave Ice Company Continues the Tradition

At the Breakwall Shave Ice Company, it is with an appreciation and deep respect for the history and culture of Hawaiin shave ice that we look to the future, incorporating the enduring principles of quality and innovation that characterize our industry into every shave ice we create. 

Let our artistry and expertise couple with your imagination to take you on a flavorful Hawaiian adventure that will never be forgotten. 

Ben Robertson

Marketing and website design at Menadena, actor at Screen Actors Guild, and author of The Last Generation.