Flavours of a Caribbean island from Norwood coffee bar

Casa Cuba, opened in October at the southern point of the Upper Norwood Triangle, provides both genuine Cubans and Cuban products.

casa_cuba_logoAnd when we talk of “real Cubans”, we are not just talking of the rolled Havanos cigars.

Proprietors Sandra and Miguel are actually Cubans, and have lived in Crystal Palace since 2006.

“Many bars and restaurants in the UK exploit Cuba as a brand, but they fail to deliver something genuine,” they say.

“Casa Cuba is the only place in the UK where you are guaranteed to drink Cuban coffee all the time.”

The modestly sized Cuban coffee crop makes securing coffee from the Caribbean island a challenge.

This coffee shop benefits not from any publicly funded support, but from the pair’s other business, Live Holidays, next door to Casa Cuba. This more profitable operation sells holidays to Cuba.

Shop manager Joel is also Cuban, as well as being a Latin music DJ.

Miguel told us that the coffee shop is “more a pleasure and a passion”.

This is a coffee shop which, as the day progresses, transforms into a Cuban cocktail bar. Gradually, the Cuban soups and homemade cakes and sandwiches are moved aside to make way for Cuban white rum.

“It was in Cuba that rum was refined for the first time, by isolating a proprietary strain of yeast,” Miguel says.

The Gothic-style metal railings around the old public lavatories at Norwood, neglected by Croydon Council but which Casa Cuba wants to take responsibility for

The Gothic-style metal railings around the old public lavatories at Norwood, neglected by Croydon Council but which Casa Cuba wants to take responsibility for

“It was this technique of removing impurities by filtering the rum through charcoal that gave birth to the first clear or ‘white’ rum in the world.

“It was also in Cuba that rum was aged in white oak barrels for the first time. This had the effect of mellowing the drink,” Miguel says.

The shop would like to take responsibility for improving the environment of the old Victorian lavatories just across from the shop, but Croydon Council was first slow to respond and are uncertain as to who actually owns the neglected facilities next to the speedway that Upper Norwood’s one-way road system provides.

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3 Responses to Flavours of a Caribbean island from Norwood coffee bar

  1. Casa Cuba is geographically located in Crystal Palace and is at the most northern part of South Norwood ward. One resident affectionately described it to me as Upper South Norwood.

    The gothic style railings around the old public toilets are currently being used as a hot spot for fly tipping. It would be nice to see this area being used sensibly. Therefore, Miguel’s offer to maintain the area and improve the local environment is a very generous one. The area could be described as being like a triangle within The Triangle.

    Miguel has some fantastic ideas to improve the environment of the local area. My colleagues and I are keen to see that that happens. I would like to see a rather more pro-active approach from Croydon Council and less of a reactive approach, which often comes across in the form of resistance and red tape.

    Small businesses, like Casa Cuba and many others, need help to thrive during these difficult economic times. Croydon Council can play a vital role in making that happen.

    Cllr Wayne Lawlor
    South Norwood ward

  2. It would be worthwhile Miguel having a chat with the Friends of Kennington Cross and Kennington Association about the long drawn out saga of bringing Kennington’s Underground Gents Lavs into use.

    The original idea of the late Celia Stothard of FOKX was to create a small arts venue. Riverside Community Development Trust agreed to negotiate the Council to take on the lease. Because Lambeth Council would not take responsibility for any damage due to rainwater penetration, RCDT was unable to sign up. The idea was mothballed.

    Then in 2009 the impasse appeared to be breached: see http://artslav.blogspot.co.uk/2009/07/kennington-cross-arts-lav.html. Progress has been slow since see: http://www.facebook.com/pages/ArtsLav/108108549268041.

    There is therefore a lot to be learnt from the Kennington experience which may be relevant to the Upper Norwood toilets.

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