Cuba: Heladería Coppelia

coppelia In many countries the water and gas industries are nationalized. But how about the ice cream industry? Well, that’s the case of Coppelia, the official ice cream of Cuba. After the revolution, ice cream could not be imported, so Cuba created a homegrown alternative. Every town in Cuba has a Heladería Coppelia, but the centerpiece of the Coppelia empire is located in Havana. The Havana Coppelia building is a mid-century marvel, made of colored glass in steel, and designed by Mario Girona 1966. The whole complex takes up nearly an entire block in the Vedado district of Havana and seats over 700. The Girona building rose to some fame after it appeared in Tomás Gutiérez Alea’s 1994 film Fresa y chocolate (Strawberries and Chocolate).coppelia-line

What is interesting is that there are in fact 2 lines at the Havana Coppelia, one for tourists who are paying dollars, and one for locals paying in pesos. Needless to say the tourist line tends to move faster. When Coppelia first opened it boasted more flavors than Baskin Robbins at the time, though a selection 2 or 3 flavors a day is the standard nowadays. The logo of Coppelia stores are ballerina legs, as seen above, surely a reference to the ballet Coppelia.

helado[Flickr CC photo credits: top – arghon , middle –veo veo, bottom- esti]

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2 Comments

Filed under World Eats

2 responses to “Cuba: Heladería Coppelia

  1. Greetings ice cream fans!! As a longtime veteran of Coppelia (including the long lines), Id like to correct some inaccuracies in this otherwise lovely post about one of my favorite places in town:

    – Cuba had a domestic ice cream industry long before the revolution. True, US imports were cut off once the embargo was imposed and also true that flavors were added once the revolution triumphed. Always have to one up the Yuma one way or another! having more flavors than Howard Johnson’s (I believe it was, not BR), was a real coup!

    – While there are two lines for Coppelia, they’re not designated as “for tourists” or “for Cubans” but rather for ANYONE with hard currency (CUC) or ANYONE with moneda nacional (CUP or MN). It irks me this oft repeated myth that tourists can’t use the national currency. And you’re quite right: the hard currency line moves much faster but the MN line is much more entertaining!

    Today, Nestle dominates the domestic market here in Havana and it’s very sad.

  2. Libertador

    Copelia is a great ice cream, but it did not get born because “ice cream” couldn’t be imported after the Revolution. There were very good brand names of cuban ice cream BEFORE the Revolution: I remember among many others: Guarina, San Bernardo, El Gallito etc, All of them Cuban ice creams made from top to botton with cuban ingredientes. The Revolution certanly did not create anything new.

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