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Milk Lab brings hand-rolled ice cream, tea bar to Cary

Milk Lab in Cary serves up a different take on ice cream and tea beverages.

Posted Updated

Jessica Patrick
, WRAL.com editor
CARY, N.C. — Nestled in a corner of an ordinary-looking shopping center, Milk Lab blends in with the businesses surrounding it, but something original and creative is unfolding inside.
Milk Lab serves hand-rolled ice cream and organic milk tea beverages for a different kind of dessert experience. The chalkboard menu features more than a dozen homemade ice cream flavors and a large list of hot and cold tea beverages, including bubble or boba teas (made with chewy tapioca balls), green and strawberry Jasmine teas, classic black teas and oolong teas.
Milk Lab

Co-owners Bin Chen and Sandy Lam met at N.C. State. Chen is a full-time systems engineer, and Lam works in fashion, but the pair quickly decided to take their creativity even further.

"Rolled ice cream comes from Thailand, so that's where the idea is from, but as for opening the store, I have always had a passion for ice cream." Chen said. "And Sandy loves tea."

"Bubble tea is really popular in Asia," Lam said. "You can find bubble tea in this area, but it's usually made with a powder base. We wanted to make a high-quality milk tea with real ingredients and organic milk."

At Milk Lab, dessert is an art. Customers can select their tea of choice and their level of sweetness. The "milk tea" part comes from a creamy milk foam cap, made from a mixture of milk and cream cheese, that can be added to the top of the drink.

"The tea and milk mix together when you drink from our specially designed cups," said Lam. "It's kind of like a sippy cup that makes the perfect drink."

Dozens of Asian markets around the Triangle serve bubble teas, but, according to Lam, this particular concept is one you won't find much of in North Carolina. "The tea is actually a big seller," said Chen. "It started out slow but once people tried the tea, it really took off."

The tea leaves and flowers come from tea farms, and the milk used for the tea is 100 percent organic milk that comes from grass-fed cows. "It's the highest quality, the most expensive you can buy, because we want to make the best drink out there," said Chen. "It has a subtlety to it, but you really taste a difference in the final product."

Milk Lab

The process of making the ice cream is important too. A liquid ice cream base is made in-house daily, and because it's a rolled ice cream, it's fresher and more natural than what you find in stores. "Since we make it here, freeze it here and serve it to you immediately, that eliminates the need for chemicals that preserve ice cream and hold it together," said Chen.

Each time a customer orders ice cream, their treat is made right in front of them with fresh ingredients like lime, honey, sweetened condensed milk, coffee and fruit. The milk base is poured on a frozen surface (about -4 degrees Fahrenheit), the toppings are added and then whole mixture is smoothed down and rolled into cups.

The process takes a minute, but watching it is part of the fun. "The slab is so cold that the cream freezes immediately," said Chen. "So we have to keep stirring it. It's a good workout!"

Included in the price is your choice of unlimited toppings -- like caramel, nuts, cereal, sprinkles and a toasted marshmallow that is warmed at the last minute with a crème brûlée torch.

Milk Lab

Some of the most popular rolled ice cream combinations include Unicorn Poop (mixed with Fruity Pebbles and honey), Key Lime (made with a squeeze of fresh lime and graham crackers) and Campfire Delight (with graham crackers, Hershey's chocolate and marshmallow).

The Thai-style tea and ice cream cafe opened on Dec. 8 is already thriving.

Check out Milk Lab on Facebook and visit the cafe at 6418 Tryon Road.
Milk Lab


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