One of the key distinctions between shave ice and a snow cone is the way the ice is prepared. A snowball is a mound of crushed ice that comes out a bit more manufactured than shave ice which is created by finely shaving chunks of ice from an ice block. A snow cone typically needs some sort of compression machine, while a shave ice can be created wherever there is fresh ice. It’s the simplicity and freshness of shave ice that makes it such a popular treat that truly melts in your mouth, along with the delicious toppings. 

Due to the simplicity of shave ice, it’s origin dates way back to the 7th century in East Asia, most notably in the island country of Japan. Less of an invention, then a creation, those who first enjoyed this coveted cold treat most likely scoped snow into a cup and put wild fruit on top. The shave ice tradition was born.

Commercial Shave Ice

As the Japanese began to immigrate to the United States, they brought their favorite cold desert along with them. What started as a way to cool off after a hard day’s work in the field eventually transformed into a commercial opportunity inside Japanese owned grocery stores.

Back then, store owners used to shave the ice by hand, scraping chunks from a block of ice. As demand grew, so did the ice shaving process. Today, shave ice still consists of fresh ice shavings, but instead of carving the ice by hand, it is shaved through an ice shaving machine. 

Shave Ice Machines

Shave ice sellers needed a way to produce ice shavings faster as their demand increased. There were several shave ice machines invented for use by their owners that were not commercialized. These machines likely only existed inside one shop, or were made in a very centralized way so only a select few shops owned one. 

One of these machines was an electronic shaving machine invented by Ernes Hansen, the first of its kind. Hansen was the owner of the legendary New Orleans snowball shop, Hansen’s Sno-Bliz. Hansen’s invention allowed him to grow his business. Today, Hansen’s Sno-Bliz is a New Orleans staple.  

The SnoWizard

The SnoWizard was the first commercial ice shaving machine to hit the market. Invented by George Ortolano in 1936, it allowed shave ice businesses to produce finer, fluffy, ice shavings at a much faster rate than shaving by hand. 

The SnoWizard is still the leading shave ice machine to this day, and has helped increase the popularity of shave ice, transforming the treat from a local grocery product to the novelty desert it is today. The shave ice tradition is ever prevalent in American culture and can be seen at any fair, circus, or outdoor event. This is largely due to the easy production of shave ice made possible by the SnoWizard.

Come See Us!

The Shaving Cup is the Roanoke Region’s finest purveyor of shave ice. We offer freshly made shave ice that will melt in your mouth, along with a wide selection of both natural and traditional syrups and toppings. Follow us on Facebook to see when we will be near you!

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