Why this bright pink ice cream is the most-searched flavor in PA

It’s hot. You want ice cream. What flavor do you seek out? According to Google Trends, cookies and cream dominates the U.S. map. After that, the most-searched ice cream flavors are as vanilla as vanilla, chocolate and strawberry — in most states. But not in Pa.

In Pennsylvania, the ice cream flavor people scour for most is bright pink teaberry.

Tea-what? If you’ve never heard of the treat that’s intriguing Pennsylvanians, know that its name and appearance can be deceiving. With its Pepto Bismol hue, teaberry ice cream looks like it might have a bubble-gum-like sugariness, but the actual taste is intensely minty — much stronger than standard mint chocolate chip.

The name “teaberry” isn’t just cutesy. They’re a real red fruits, native to the Atlantic Seaboard. The plant is also sometimes known as American Wintergreen. Yep, that sounds familiar because it’s a common flavor for chewing gum.

In fact, if you were to ask East Coast Baby Boomers about teaberry ice cream, chances are they’d fondly remember Clark’s Teaberry Gum. In the early 1900s, a man named Charles Burke experimented with chewing gum flavors in his Pittsburgh basement. When he concocted a rose pink stick that tasted like mint, Clark’s acquired the patent and began production. The gum quickly became a cult favorite.

Even though Clark’s has been since discontinued, the teaberry flavor has since been immortalized in the form of ice cream. The stuff can be found at various independent creameries around Pennsylvania, as well as in limited-edition runs from brands like Yuengling, Hershey’s and Turkey Hill.

One of the shops to offer the historical mint flavor is Franklin Fountain in Old City, the Market Street shop that uses authentic antique machinery to produce its roster of sweets.

The parlour, owned by brothers Eric and Ryan Berley, has had teaberry on the menu ever since opening in 2004. Franklin Fountain strives to preserve history in both its methods and its wistfully unique flavors — and Clark’s Teaberry Gum ice cream is a  perfect example.

Eric Berley also has a personal connection to the flavor, he told Billy Penn. His mother used to hang antique art with Clark’s Teaberry Gum. He surmises that the novelty ice cream is searched for the most because of the love-hate relationship people have with the extra-strong taste. He’s happy it has a spot on his menu, both because they wanted another pink ice cream and because it goes perfectly with the spice of a rootbeer float. That doesn’t mean it’s popular — but he doesn’t care.

“Sadly, it’s one of our lowest selling flavors,” Berley said, “but we don’t give up on her. She’s in the cabinet to stay.”

No shops in Philly other than Franklin Fountain seem to offer it, but if you’re looking for a food-inspired road trip across Pennsylvania, here’s a list of spots to hit up for your teaberry ice cream fix.