The Sweet Scoop on Gelato in South Kona

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Gypsea Gelato owners Sandra and Tim Heaton. Photo credit: Karen Rose.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for—gelato? That’s right, gelato, the creamy delicious Italian dessert that is taking the US by storm.

According to the research firm Mintel, annual sales of gelato were $214 million in 2014, up from $11 million in 2009.

Gypsea Gelato in Kealakekua has jumped on this frozen dessert bandwagon, offering a large variety of unique and creative flavors of ice creamʻs creamier Italian cousin.

Owners Sandra and Tim Heaton have lived and worked in various fields and locations.


Sandra has worked in boat galleys (kitchens), and Tim has worked in restaurants and the organic produce industry, including purchasing for the largest distributor of certified organic produce in the Pacific Northwest.

They opened Gypsea Gelato in November of 2014.

“We were working SCUBA dive boats in the Caribbean when we found gelato,” said Tim. “After we decided that we didn’t want to own our own boat or run our own charters, we thought making our own gelato might be fun. We spent a few days with a gelato master, which helped us to decide that this was something we truly enjoy doing.”

The differences between gelato and ice cream are quite distinct, as connoisseurs are quick to point out. The primary variables being texture, butterfat content and temperature.


Gelato is creamier and denser than American ice cream, which is interesting, because ice cream contains up to 25% fat, and gelato only 4% to 9% fat.

So how can gelato be creamier? It contains less air, which keeps it dense and creamy.

Another perk of having less butterfat, is it frees your palate of coating and allows flavors to be tasted more fully. Additionally, because gelato is served warmer, the flavors are more intense.

Speaking of flavors…


“Many of our flavors are inspired by other meals, like goat cheese, maple peppered pecans, strawberries and a balsamic glaze—in other words, everything we put on a salad,” said Tim. “We also have Tom Kha gelato, made with ginger, lemongrass, coconut and turmeric; S’mores gelato, made with graham cracker, chocolate and marshmallow gelato—what you make when you’re camping, of course!

“Another flavor is haupia and purple sweet potato—Hawaiian dessert,” Tim continued. “There are so many options in flavors, and the list we have seems to grow every day. Oh, and sharing a bottle of wine helps, too.”

Whatever the Heatonʻs are doing, it seems to be working. Customers line up out the door for samples of their creative masterpieces.

“We use the best ingredients that we can find,” explained Tim. “We source our ingredients from as close to the shop as possible. Many of our ingredients come from farms within a few miles of us. If we cannot find the best ingredients locally, we find the best in the world. Our vanilla beans are Tahitian, our chocolates are from France & Holland, but ginger, purple sweet potato, lemongrass, coffee, macadamia nuts and the like, come from the islands.”

With fresh ingredients and love mixed into the recipes, the proof is in the gelato.

Gyspea Gelato is open seven days a week from noon to 8:30 p.m.

The shop is located at 79-7460 Mamalahoa Highway in Kealakekua.

Gelato case

Gypsea Gelato. Photo credit: Karen Rose.

Mauka Trail Gelato

Gypsea Gelato. Photo credit: Karen Rose.

Gypsea Gelato Owners Sandra and Tim Heaton. Photo credit: Karen Rose.

Pele's Kiss Chocolate Hawaiian Chili Pepper and Cinnamon gelato

Gypsea Gelato’s Pele’s Kiss Chocolate Hawaiian Chili Pepper and Cinnamon gelato. Photo credit: Karen Rose.

Gypsea Gelato’s Salted Caramel gelato. Photo credit: Karen Rose

toasted coconut

Gypsea Gelato’s Toasted Coconut Haystack gelato. Photo credit: Karen Rose.

white chocolate raspberry gelato

Gypsea Gelato’s White Chocolate Raspberry gelato. Photo credit: Karen Rose.

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