Magsaysay scion finds fulfillment in making best Pinoy ice cream

Since 2011, Carmen’s Best has built its reputation as a cult favorite worth the indulgence

by Mags Ocampo, photo by JL Javier

Since 2011, Carmen’s Best has built its reputation as a cult favorite worth the indulgence. Continuing to helm the brand on its fifth year, company founder Paco Magsaysay takes Rogue on a trip to the Laguna dairy farm to tell the story so far, boast the brand’s 38 flavors, and talk about why he loves making ice cream

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Paco Magsaysay built an empire out of his favorite hobby — making artisanal ice cream.

“Quality means taking no shortcuts.”

This is and always has been Paco Magsaysay’s mantra when it comes to his ice cream brand, Carmen’s Best. A league above almost any other ice cream in this country, 80% of every Carmen’s Best product is made out of fresh milk from the Magsaysay family’s own dairy farm.

 

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Carmen’s Best owner Paco Magsaysay pretends to be a cow as the farm’s operations supervisor Jake Borja walks the crowd through the milking process.

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Jake Borja, resident operations supervisor, talks about the science of milking cows — from the proper time tables to the cows’ preferred classical composers.

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A salt lick full of minerals hangs from a tree in the cows’ designated grazing area.

Carmen’s Best came from humble beginnings despite the brand being owned by the son of former senator Jun Magsaysay. Operations were at such a small scale in the brand’s earlier years that the market was initially limited to Ayala-Alabang. But the premium ice cream brand has come a long way since starting off with a portable ice cream maker and four flavours — Butter Pecan, Brazilian Coffee, Malted Milk, and the undefeated best-seller, Salted Caramel — back in 2011.

 

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A look inside the farm’s processing plant shows simple interiors dotted with unique, state of the art equipment.

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Two of the rare black-and-white heifers among the farm’s 100 milking cows have a mid-day snack.

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A special treat for women going through bad break-ups and lovers’ quarrels, He’s Not Worth It! is basically a dark chocolate Mississippi Mud Pie in the form of ice cream.

Today, the brand boasts 38 flavours — each flavour with a story told through top-notch ingredients picked purely on the basis of taste and quality. Malted Milk, for example, is a flavour inspired by the Horlicks candies that fuelled the patintero games of Magsaysay’s childhood. He’s Not Worth It!, on the other hand, was a flavour Magsaysay developed after speaking to several women who confided in him that ice cream was the key to fixing a broken heart. It’s basically the extremely indulgent ice cream equivalent of a classic dark chocolate Mississippi Mud Pie. Magsaysay’s personal favourites, however, are Pistachio, Tres Leches, and their very own Hokey Pokey (a flavour he brought home from New Zealand consisting of vanilla and caramel honeycombs).

 

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The plant’s operations supervisor explains the science behind common dairy products as he guides the tour.

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Various dairy products are offered to the crowd as samples including biscuits with farm-fresh cheese.

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Aside from providing the milk and cream needed for Carmen’s Best, Real Fresh Dairy Farm produces Holly’s milk and yoghurt as well.

This kind of attention to detail and quality is definitely recognised by Carmen’s Best patrons who continually support the brand despite it being more costly than most other ice creams. “Once people try it, they just know it’s different. All you need is one spoon,” Magsaysay smiles heartily as he explains this. His confidence makes sense seeing as his stocks usually do sell out at the supermarkets he supplies his ice cream to. Add to that the fact that Carmen’s Best has been served to no less than the pope.

For the brand’s fifth anniversary, Magsaysay invited friends and media to the Real Fresh Dairy Farm in Laguna, the family-owned farm from where the milk and cream used to produce the ice cream is sourced, for a tour guided by none other than Magsaysay himself. Moving around the 27-hectare farm, Magsaysay shared stories about the 100 cows that churn out 1,300 litres of milk a day as they are soothed by classical music, as well as the history of Holly’s Farm as a whole. With every word he spoke and every step he took, a glimmer of pride shone in Magsaysay’s eyes. He was happy to be there and he is happy with the brand’s progress. “It’s gone beyond a business. We’re in the lives of so many people now.”

Magsaysay related how his favourite part of owning Carmen’s Best is hearing stories from people about their kids, friends, and families who have shared great experiences over ice cream. With passion and dedication as key ingredients in the company’s daily operations, the only way for Carmen’s Best is up — and for Magsaysay, at this point, that means exportation.

 

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Five years and 38 flavours later, Paco Magsaysay knows there’s still so much in store for his beloved brand.