Few Customers at Havana’s Coppelia Ice Cream Parlor After Prices Go Up

A line of people on Saturday waiting outside Coppelia, the iconic ice cream parlor at L Street and 23rd Avenue in Havana.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodriguez, Havana, March 19, 2022 — Employees at Havana’s popular Coppelia ice cream parlor reported seeing fewer customers just days before a price increase is scheduled to effect on Tuesday. Although it is common to see dozens of people waiting outside early in the morning to avoid the customary long lines, on Saturday there were fewer than fifteen people at each of the building’s entrances just before 10 AM, when the business opens.

City officials announced on Thursday that a scoop of Coppelia ice cream would soon cost 9 pesos while the lower-quality Varadero version would go for 7. The excuse the Internal Trade Business Group gave this time was that an increase in the price of raw milk has impacted the cost of industrial milk production, raising the retail price of dairy products such as ice cream.”

A mother who had taken her two children to Coppelia on Saturday breathed a sigh of relief when she arrived because she had been expecting to pay more. “If you want to get two ’ice cream salads’ [multiple scoops] here, it helps to know someone on the inside,” she observed ironically, referring to the ice cream parlor’s reputation for corruption.

The local government claims that “the quality of ice cream Coppelia offers” combined with “the quality of service” promises to provide customers with “a unique and excellent product.”

“All Coppelia’s employees want to do is steal. Selling ’under the table’ (on the black market). That’s all that interests them,” claims one Havana resident who is a frequent customer. “Waiting on customers is just a collateral obligation, a necessary evil. You realize that whenever you ask them a question or demand service and they give you a very rude response. That’s just one of many examples.”

When currency unification took effect in January of 2021, the price of a scoop of ice cream at Coppelia shot up from 1.5 pesos to 7 pesos. Its traditional ice cream ensalada [salad], which includes five scoops, rose to 35 pesos, the four-scoop Super Twins to 28 and the Tres Gracias to 21.

After hundreds of complaints in person and on social media, officials lowered the price to 5 pesos though it remained at 7 pesos for a 90-gram scoop at the site’s Four Jewels salon, where table service is provided.

An “ordinary” line at Havana’s Coppelia ice cream parlor in pre-pandemic, pre-price increase days. (14ymedio)

Given the symbolic importance of Coppelia, which once offered more than a dozen flavors and was immortalized in films such as Strawberry and Chocolate, the price increases brought on by currency unification led to an avalanche of complaints, memes on social media and outraged reactions from customers.

The enormous ice cream parlor, centrally located at the corner of L Street and 23rd Avenue, is a Havana icon where long lines are ever-present. It is especially popular with students and people with low incomes, who cannot afford to pay 20 to 25 pesos for a scoop at a privately owned ice cream shop.

The open-air seating areas, the courtyard and the glamorous upper floor have for decades been the sites of weekend outings for families with children. It has also been a popular gathering place for students at the University of Havana, located just a few yards away.



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