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Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

Havana’s Coppelia Ice-Cream Parlor: One Week Later

August 20, 2013 | Print Print |

Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES — Soon after writing my previous post about the decline of Coppelia, Cuba’s largest ice-cream parlor, the establishment surprised me this weekend by announcing a new offer of twenty different flavors.

It was hard for me to believe that my article, which invoked the 26 flavors and 24 combinations Coppelia announced on its 1966 menu, could have such positive repercussions. I had to confirm what I was reading.

On closer inspection, I realized that it was actually false advertising, for, in essence, what Coppelia is doing is counting the different number of servings as different menu items: sundae (one scoop), jimagua (two scoops), tres gracias (three scoops), super-twins (four scoops) and ice-cream salad (five scoops).

The other house specialties, which combine scoops of ice-cream with desserts such as egg-yolk sweets, panatela, pastry rolls and flan, struck me as more attractive offers.

On the menu, I also saw different kinds of ice-cream floats, so I decided to go in. There was, after all, a remote possibility the establishment was replying to my post with what we Cubans refer to as a “moral slap on the face.”

No such luck. What they had is what they’ve always had: ice-cream.

You could ask for as many as a thousand scoops, but it was just plain ice-cream: no specialties or decorations or anything. Of all the sweets on the menu posted outside, they only had pastry rolls and coffee cake, which came piled up in a separate plate.

All ice-cream servings came with three cookies and were sprinkled with a dusting of something unrecognizable.

There were no floats of any kind: cold water was the only drink available.

As for the flavors, of the three advertised (strawberry, orange-pineapple and vanilla), they only had strawberry and vanilla. I was thus unable to enjoy the establishment’s delicious, emptied-out scoops of chocolate ice-cream, and had to content myself with its emptied-out scoops of strawberry ice-cream.

Of course, as I always do, I asked them to bring me a new serving, one with full scoops of ice-cream (as they should, in any case). The kind waitress did this immediately, without protesting.

They took a very long time to serve us. Though half of the tables in the different areas of the establishment were empty, there was a long line-up of people waiting outside, under the hot sun.

The waiters were kept busy: they had to see to a table where, every minute or so, a new person (all the ones I saw while there were women) would sit down and hand them a big bag. In less than a minute, the waiter would be back with one or two tubs of ice-cream, heavily wrapped in items of clothing.

They would do this right beneath everyone’s noses, while glancing nervously back at the stairwell, whence an inspector or manager could emerge at any moment (I suppose).

To make a long story short, my suspicions were confirmed: the varied offer on the menu was mere, misleading advertising. I hope Cuban blogger Enrique Ubieta, whom I saw there sporting a T-shirt with a 26th of July banner design on it, will report this in his blog La isla desconocida (“The Unknown Island”). Perhaps, together, we can organize a revolution in Coppelia.


What's your opinion?

  • Scrappy

    The only revolucion should be no more waiting long lines! Misleading you say? try, the current currency exchange rate signs en los bancos? I love Cuba XD

  • Moses Patterson

    If you purchase the Coppelia ice cream sold on-site but at the CUC kiosk, it seems to be an entirely different ice cream of much higher quality. The Nestle “Suprema” premium ice cream which sells for about $2.80 (about 3 days salary for the average Cuban) for about a cup of ice cream is the best quality sold on the island and it doesn’t come close to he quality of a Ben and Jerry’s or Haagen Daz.

  • Tom Fish

    Hi Isbel, I am making a programme on Cuban food culture and would like to hear your thoughts about some important areas. Please get in touch with tom.fish@fremantlemediauk.com.

    Very best,

    Tom