Have you heard the buzz around Portland about the latest artisanal ice cream in town? It’s sweetened with Maine honey and often flavored with other local products, from Speckled Ax coffee to Wyman’s Wild Maine Blueberries.

It took Jenny Siler, who co-owns Black Cat Coffee on Stevens Avenue with her husband, Keith Dunlap, a year and a half of experimentation to develop Little Bee Honey Ice Cream. The honey replaces the corn syrup and artificial ingredients often found in mass-produced ice creams, and gives the treat a special taste. Her first flavor was Honey Sea Salt ice cream made with honey from The Honey Exchange, which is just down the street from the coffee shop.

“One of the things we discovered using the honey was not only does it take the place of corn syrup and those other ingredients,” Dunlap said, “but also, because it’s sweet, we can use a little less sugar, and the subtler, more sophisticated flavors can develop.”

As an example, he cited a flavor I tried: Speckled Ax Coffee Malt. The ice cream has a strong honey undertone, but it doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors.

“If it was too sweet, you wouldn’t taste the subtle interplay between the coffee flavor and the malt flavor,” Dunlap said. “And at the same time, you can taste the honey hovering in the background – pardon the pun.”

Other flavors where the honey is clearly discernible but not overpowering include lavender and London Fog – the latter contains Earl Grey tea.

All told, Little Bee makes 12 flavors – 11 ice cream and one sorbet. Dunlap says they try to make something for kids (Cherry Pie), a few offbeat flavors (think Cardamom and Thai Tea) and classics like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.

The ice cream costs $3 for a single scoop, $4.25 for a double and $2.50 for a kiddie size. The largest container is 12 ounces, which goes for $5.25.

Restaurants have started to take notice. Woodford Food & Beverage on Forest Avenue, Kamasouptra at the Portland Public Market House and Salty Sally’s Bar & Grille on Congress Street all serve Little Bee Honey Ice Cream.

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