Believe it or not, shaved ice as we know it today, dates back several centuries ago to the Heian Period of Japan. Ice was collected from the mountains in the winter time and stored in a special room. This may sound odd but ice itself was considered rare during this time, so shaved ice was really a luxury reserved for royalty.
Later, thousands of Japanese immigrants came to the Hawaiian islands to work on the sugar plantations, bringing with them the first iterations of shaved ice. Using Japanese swords, they would shave large blocks of ice and then flavor the shaved ice with local fruit juices.
After they moved away from the plantations, these Japanese immigrants opened family-run grocery stores, selling goods along with shaved ice, making the treat rise in popularity.
(27 BC to 395 AD)
Similar to what the Japanese did, during the Roman Empire, legends say that the Roman emperor sent his servants to get snow from the mountains and bring it to the city, where flavored syrup was added. This is considered to be the first true frozen dessert.
Moving ahead many, many years, the next significant time period in the evolution of shaved ice was the American Industrial Revolution. During this time ice became easily available, in New York in particular. There were several ice houses in existence which would ship blocks of ice to Florida using wagons. As these wagons would pass through different cities, kids would excitedly track them down to ask for a scraping of ice. Mothers began making their own special flavorings to add to the collected ice scrapings, for the next time the wagon rolled around.
In 1869, the modern version of shaved ice was created in a port town in Japan and soon after in the United States, shaved ice had become immensely popular. Even movie theaters began to sell shaved ice as a refreshment.
In 1919, an American man by the name of Samuel Bert developed the first snow cone machine and sold his snow cones at the Texas State Fair. In 1934, the first block ice shaver was created in New Orleans. Some years later, snow cones became an affordable treat, easily available all across the United States.
Today, you’ll find so many different versions of shaved ice and a delicious, expansive array of unique toppings. If you’re in the market for some new and exciting shaved ice and snow cone flavors, explore the rest of our site!