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Cuban Ice Cream

Havana's Coppelia Ice Cream Pavilion, which occupies an entire block in downtown Havana, is often described as "a gift to the people from the revolution." However, ice cream has always been popular in Cuba and was a favorite long before the revolution!

There were always many ice cream parlors in the major Cuban cities. In the old days, you could order canoas (canoes or long sundae dishes) and ensaladas (five-scoop monsters) filled with your favorite tropical flavors and toppings. Mango, coconut, fruta bomba, mamey, guava, and pineapple were very popular. Choices were plentiful and ice cream parlors rarely ran out of a specific flavor.

The American company, Baskin-Robbins was a very popular brand in Cuba. Like most free enterprises, they were kicked out of Cuba after the revolution. Fidel decreed that his State-run ice cream enterprise would be better than Baskin Robbins with 32 flavors of ice cream!

This poster for Coppelia is a bit of a joke to people living in Cuba today. Unless you have US dollars, you are lucky to get a scoop or two – not the elaborate sundaes depicted here!

The Coppelia in Havana is remembered by most Cuban exiles not for its distinctive architecture – it looks something like a giant. futuristic spider – but for the long lines that were common, especially on hot days where you could wait for as long as five hours!

If you've seen the film "Fresa y Chocolate" (Strawberry and Chocolate,) you'll also know that Coppellia is also famous for not having much ice cream. In the best of times, Coppelia never served more than nine flavors (NEVER 32!) on any given day. In more recent times, usually only one or two watered-down flavors are available. And they always seem to be out of chocolate!

There are several places in Miami that serve classic Cuban ice cream flavors:

Kings Cream

Azucar Ice Cream Company

Polo Norte

Photo from an early Havana tourist brochure.

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