I LOVE ICE CREAM. I love ice cream atop warm apple crisp laced with buttery brown sugar and oats and I love it sandwiched between chewy homemade cookies. I love ice cream with caramel sauce. And dark chocolate sauce. And salted almonds. I love it in a cone and in a bowl. But most of all, I love ice cream when it’s inside my mouth.

Larry Kaplowitz, co-founder of Coconut Bliss

Luna Marcus and Larry Kaplowitz, the Eugene couple behind Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss, clearly share this adoration. However, both Marcus and Kaplowitz gave up dairy several years ago after suffering its negative physical effects. They did not, thankfully, lose their hankering for great-tasting ice cream.

Armed with a cast-off, hand-crank machine and the drive to find a worthy alternative, the two began experimenting, using coconut milk as a base for more than 20 different flavors. A houseful of spoon-wielding guests gave them an enthusiastic thumbs-up, and Coconut Bliss was thus born in late winter 2005.

It was only after sampling several flavors of Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss at the Sweet Life Bakery in Eugene (where the product is sold by the scoop) that I realized what I was swooning over was dairy-free. I also realized that what I love about ice cream is its cool, buttery-sweet richness—not necessarily the fact that it is made from the milk of a cow.

The subtle flavor of coconut milk takes center stage in some of the lighter flavors like Ginger Crystal Crème and Vanilla Chocolate Flake, while acting as a velvety background for the more intense Dark Chocolate and Pistachio Cardamom. Sweetened with agave syrup instead of refined sugar, not only is Coconut Bliss entirely vegan and certified organic, but gluten-free and low-glycemic as well.

“Coconut is naturally amazing,” explains Marcus. “We really didn’t have to do anything to it in order to create a creamy, rich, and flavorful product.”

In addition to being dairy-free, coconut milk has the added advantage of containing a high level of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which aid in fighting germs and protecting the heart. Additionally, MCTs are less inclined to be stored as body fat and are easily digested by those with low metabolism, colitis, and hypothyroidism.

But Kaplowitz and Marcus hesitate to press the “non-dairy” issue. They want Coconut Bliss to be enjoyed on its own merits, not as a compromise to traditional ice cream.

These bonus health benefits are great news for my insides as I linger over the last silky spoonful of Chiapas Arabica Decaf, made from nothing more than Café Mam coffee beans, coconut milk, agave syrup and vanilla extract. Even greater news is the fact that as a well-seasoned ice cream eater with no dietary restrictions, I can assure you (and Luna and Larry) that I do not feel the slightest bit compromised.

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