No milk, su­gar: Venezue­lans lose prized ice cream to cri­sis

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

The Coro­moto ice cream par­lor had it all - choco­late and vanilla for sure, though also gar­lic, av­o­cado and even oc­to­pus sor­bets... but the things you can’t find in Venezuela any more, like milk and su­gar, means the land­mark has had to close for good. When Manuel Da Silva first opened its wel­com­ing yel­low doors in 1981, the He­lade­ria Coro­moto of­fered its clients the tried and trusted - vanilla, straw­berry, choco­late and co­conut fla­vors.

Un­til one day, Manuel tried out an av­o­cado sor­bet on his cus­tomers. “It was a suc­cess!” says Jose Ramirez, Manuel’s son-in-law who now runs the busi­ness. “He had a crazy idea and he started to in­vent, to try things with meat, with fish,” says Jose. He might have stopped at chipi-chipi, a small Caribbean mol­lusc, but Manuel was clearly not a man to hold back on a hunch. New fla­vors fol­lowed when he ex­per­i­mented with gar­lic as well as onion fla­vored ice cream.

Soon Manuel’s imag­i­na­tion knew no lim­its and the num­ber of wacky fla­vors, and his rep­u­ta­tion, grew. “Peo­ple were com­ing to try some strange things,” said Luis Mar­quez, a young lo­cal in the moun­tain town of Merida who grew up com­ing to the Coro­moto. In 1991, just a decade af­ter open­ing and a world away from plain old vanilla, the He­lade­ria Coro­moto got an en­try in the Guin­ness Book of Records for pro­vid­ing the most fla­vors of any ice cream par­lor in the world-at the time, 386.

But Manuel, a Por­tuguese im­mi­grant, con­tin­ued to in­no­vate and play with peo­ple’s taste­buds. Black bean ice cream soon fol­lowed, chilli, beet­root... up to a stag­ger­ing 860 fla­vors. The shop quickly be­came a key at­trac­tion in Merida, an An­dean city of 450,000 which is also known for hav­ing the world’s high­est ca­ble-car ride, 4,765 me­ters above sea-level. Now it comes highly rec­om­mended in tourist guides such as Lonely Planet and TripAd­vi­sor. But Venezuela’s deep­en­ing eco­nomic cri­sis since the col­lapse of crude oil prices in 2014 meant it be­came an or­deal to source raw ma­te­ri­als over the last few years. “For years we have been suf­fer­ing from short­ages and we buy on the black mar­ket. We can­not get prod­ucts from our tra­di­tional sup­pli­ers,” said Jose, 56. Up to now, Jose has al­ways man­aged to scrape by. “But the sit­u­a­tion got more com­pli­cated this year .... ”

As many Venezue­lans bat­tle hunger and mal­nu­tri­tion be­cause of an eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal cri­sis, some will see it as an­other beau­ti­ful thing that has gone in a coun­try dazed from months of of­ten vi­o­lent protests that killed 125 peo­ple. — AFP

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