Did you know that a Black young man introduced vanilla to the world in the 1800s? I didn’t either.

Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old enslaved boy discovered the rostellum, the lid that prevents self fertilization in many orchid plants, including vanilla, and how to foster fertilization. He shared his technique with slaves at other plantations that led to developing the island of Réunion as one of the top vanilla producers in the world, within 50 years of his initial discovery and work.

This is the little-known story that the founders of Kente Cones, an upscale Brooklyn based ice cream brand, want its customers to know at the first taste of their sweet treats.

The idea for the business first came about when best friends Ashley Marrero and Charles Asante had a conversation about taking Asante’s vision to the next level.

“I came up with the name a couple of years ago back in 2017 when I was thinking about opening up an ice cream store, and I wanted it to be very cultured,” said Asante, who is of Ghanian descent. “I wanted to unapologetically brand myself. I brought it up to Ashley in 2019, and she instantly fell in love with the name Kente Cones and the idea, and we decided to partner up. I initially wanted to source other vendors to make the ice cream for us, but Ashley said, ‘no, let’s try to make it ourselves with high-quality ingredients’ that really tell a story. And now, here we are.”

After deep research, they discovered that many of the elements that elevate taste profiles for the flavors they wanted came from Africa, including cocoa shipped directly from Ghana. Marrero said that is what’s used to create their chocolate ice cream.

The founders also said they were intentional about telling a story with each flavor, starting with each name.

Le geste d’Edmond, their vanilla flavor, is French for “Edmond’s gesture, referring to Edmond Albius’s historic discovery. Other flavors include Melanin Madness, Bobby & Huey Crunch which is a nod to civil rights leaders Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, Ashanti sorbet and Swahili Cream among others.

They said that their ingredients are also sourced from local farms and they hope to broaden their reach internationally.

“Our growth plan includes a business model that will tap African farmers more, particularly in Ghana, to help create more jobs,” said Marrero.

Friends since their freshman years of high school, the now 32-year-olds said they are looking forward to watching the brand expand alongside one another.

“We’ve had such success with pop-up shops all over the city, so we’re aiming to open a speak-easy themed flag ship store soon,” said Marrero.

Asante added, “Kente Cones is all about allowing be unapologetically Black, all the time.”