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Morsey’s Creamery, the first water buffalo creamery in US, fills niche in downtown Palo Alto

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“The New Ice Cream Standard” is the slogan on the window of Morsey’s Creamery, which opened at 125 University Avenue in the summer of 2019.

“I just painted that sign today,” said Kal Morsey, the owner of the gelato shop, during our visit this week, “and I think people will agree.”

All of the gelato at Morsey’s Creamery is made from water buffalo milk, which has more protein, calcium and fat than traditional cow’s milk, according to The Encyclopedia of Dairy Sciences. Water buffalo milk also has less cholesterol than cow’s milk, despite the higher fat content.

“That’s why you don’t get the aftertaste, the coating in your mouth,” Morsey said.

Morsey, born in Alexandria, Egypt, was used to having water buffalo milk products in his home country, and wondered why he couldn’t find any when he came to the United States in 1978. So he decided to start making it himself. He spent his entire fortune to grow his herd — now around 400 water buffalo in Wilton, California, south of Sacramento — and to open the creamery.

Now, Morsey’s is the only water buffalo creamery in the United States.

Raising water buffalo makes less economical sense than raising cows, as they produce far less milk in a day than a cow, Morsey explained. That’s why American farmers never started breeding them. Still, the animals are strong, docile, eat just about anything and produce milk for much longer than dairy cows.

Morsey thinks that Palo Alto was the perfect place to open the unconventional creamery.

“Everything started in Palo Alto. In fact, Zuckerberg’s first office was right around here,” he said, showing a picture of Mark Zuckerberg visiting the creamery.

Morsey’s Creamery joins an already packed ice cream market in Palo Alto, with 11 ice cream shops in the city and six of them downtown. But this doesn’t worry Morsey at all.

The plethora of ice cream shops means that ice cream is popular in Palo Alto, which means people want it, Morsey explained. “Once people realize that our product is better, they’ll start coming here.”

In terms of price, Morsey’s creamery leans towards the more expensive ice cream stores in Palo Alto, charging $5.50 for a (generous) single scoop, $7.50 for two, and $8.50 for the three-scoop special. The flavors are pretty standard for a gelato shop — ranging from mint chocolate chip to raspberry — and rotate occasionally. Morsey’s also sells water buffalo mozzarella and burrata cheese.

So how does it taste?

We tried the gianduia (chocolate hazelnut), pistachio, orange ricotta and hazelnut. Each one was incredibly creamy, but not too rich — a unique texture that distinguishes it from normal gelato. The gianduia and hazelnut flavors both had small flecks of the nut throughout, as did the pistachio — a welcome bit of crunch in the thick ice cream. Similarly, the orange ricotta was dotted with orange zest. All of them were worth getting again.

“It reminds me of the gelato I’d eat in Italy,” Schuyler Tilney-Volk ‘20 said.

“I want to come back and try more flavors,” Kendra Dunsmoor ‘21 added. 

Morsey’s favorite is the pistachio.

“Every morning, I come down, and I eat two scoops,” he said with a smile. “It’s too easy to get addicted.”

At the end of the day, Morsey is sure the shop will succeed. “I don’t want to sound obnoxious, but it’s a superior product. It really is.”

“I’m going to give Salt and Straw a run for their money.”

Contact Danielle Echeverria at dech23 ‘at’ stanford.edu.