The Sweet Ontario Tradition of Tiger Tail Ice Cream

Chapman's Tiger Tail ice cream

When you think of uniquely Canadian foods, classics like Nanaimo bars, poutine, or even ketchup chips are likely the first to come to mind; but one of Canada’s most little-known culinary contributions to the world is also one of its most polarizing: tiger tail ice cream.


What flavour is Tiger Tail ice cream?

Tiger tail ice cream features an orange ice cream based swirled with black licorice, creating its unmistakable orange-and-black colour and its signature citrus flavour tinged with warmly spicy anise.

Whether you love it or hate it now, most of us were lured into sampling this unusual ice cream at least once during our childhood. While its vivid colours and name link to one of the world’s largest big cats may seem kid-friendly, not all kids (or adults!) find its distinctive flavour approachable.

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“Tiger tail has a very unique flavour profile that’s different from any other ice cream flavours on the market,” says Lesya Chapman, marketing manager for Chapman’s ice cream, which has been making tiger tail for decades.

“The flavour captivates taste buds with the wide spectrum of its taste profile and you want to have more right away. People who love it are very loyal to this flavour.”

Kawartha Dairy Tiger Tail ice cream

Kawartha Dairy

Where is Tiger Tail ice cream from?

Although it’s unclear exactly where and when tiger tail ice cream was invented, its peak popularity spanned from the 1950s through the 1970s.

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Is Tiger Tail only in Canada?

Tiger tail has always been most widely available in southern Ontario, and continues to be virtually non-existent outside of Canada. While its flavour may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s become a nostalgic favourite for many Canadians.

“It has a large number of Canadian fans that are very passionate about this product,“ says Chapman.

While tiger tail ice cream isn’t as commonplace as it was during its heyday half a century ago, there are still a number of producers making this divisive retro flavour.


Does Chapmans make Tiger Tail ice cream?

“We sell over 50,000 units of this product every year. It’s also a very popular flavour among scoops shops, where we sell our 11.4 L tubs of tiger tail,” says Chapman.

Aside from Chapman’s, PC also makes a rendition of tiger tail ice cream, which is sold in grocery stores across the country. You can also typically find this flavour at Kawartha Dairy and Shaw’s Ice Cream outlets across Ontario.


“It’s a unique combination that works well together: the black licorice has a distinct taste and pairs well with the orange-flavoured ice cream,” says Mike Crowe, director, product and capability development in research and development for Kawartha Dairy. “There are definitely some die-hard tiger tail fans out there!”

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Where can I find Tiger Tail ice cream?

Whether you’re a longtime devotee or want to revisit this offbeat ice cream, head to Avondale Dairy Bar in Niagara-on-the-Lake for a throwback ice cream experience to match tiger tail’s old-school flavour.

Open since 1955, this much-loved spot makes its fresh ice cream by hand daily, including its “tiger” flavour. A working dairy farm that’s home to 90 Holstein cows, Avondale Dairy Bar is a serene countryside spot for tucking in to this only-in-Canada cool treat.

Read more: The Very Western Canadian History of the Shaft Cocktail