When Vivienne Li decided to take a break from public relations and marketing, it was to rethink her career. She wanted her next endeavor to be creative and sustainable, something that she and others could enjoy and share. Li got her answer after discovering gelato on a trip to Italy.
She returned to attend Carpiagini Gelato University, where she took a full course on the art of gelato making and interned at the institution’s gelataria. In 2012, her business Vivi Dolce was born.
“Dolce” (meaning “sweet” in Italian) refers not only to the gelato, but also a certain attitude and lifestyle. Once, one of Li’s friends went straight to the office after a long business trip and found gelato that Li had left her in the freezer. She called Li to say that eating the gelato had made all her stress evaporate. Stories like that provide Li with hope that customers can enjoy not only the product, but also the moment.
As someone who didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen growing up, the move to start a food business was admittedly an unusual one. However, Li says she has always appreciated good food. “Cooking is an amazing experience because ingredients come from Mother Earth and when you touch them, you turn them into something tastier and more beautiful,” she says.
Li acknowledges that the milk situation in China isn’t ideal, but she tries to source the best for her gelato. Last year, she visited Wondermilk’s farm in Hebei to see their facilities and manufacturing process first-hand. She now works with Green Yard, the only supplier of organic milk in Beijing. The difference, she explains, is that the milk only undergoes pasteurization once, preserving nutrition, flavor, and aroma.
To come up with her inventive gelato flavors, Li relies on a combination of research and instincts. For example, when experimenting with a chestnut flavor to embody autumn, she thought of adding chocolate or coffee for more complexity; Li finds single flavors “boring.”
In two years, Li’s business has expanded beyond WeChat orders; her gelato is now served at restaurants like Temple Restaurant Beijing and The Rug. Vivi Dolce also has a more comprehensive delivery service; a 500g container of gelato costs RMB 135. Her products are also stocked at Cup One in Wangjing, where customers can sample up to two flavors in a 100g serving (RMB 38).
Li’s favorite flavor is Crazy Berries, a blend of raspberry, blueberry and blackberry. We also liked the fragrant and delicate Rose Whisper, featuring real rose petals from Yunnan. Many of Vivi Dolce’s fruit-based flavors are seasonal, but milk-based flavors like pistachio, hazelnut, and yogurt are available year-round.
Buy Vivi Dolce at Cup One or place your order through WeChat by adding their official account at username “vividolce.”
Daily 9am-11pm. Unit 0203, 2/F, Bldg D, Kirin Place, 11 Fu’anxi Lu, Chaoyang District (5363 0599) 朝阳区阜安西路11号麒麟社D楼2层0203室
Photos: Courtesy of Vivi Dolce