Of all the countries on my bucket list, Cuba is the one that's intrigued me for as long as I can remember. Nowhere else in the world has managed to retain so much old charm with its iconic 1920s Cadillacs and streets filled with colonial buildings. This year I planned an indefinite trip through Latin America, and I knew that Cuba was a must see.
I’ve now spent 2 weeks here, travelling in the iconic capital of Havana, the dreamy countryside of Viñales, the tropical beaches of Playa Giron and Varaderos and the colourful, colonial cities of Cienfuegos and Trinidad. Although it’s been challenging at times, it’s certainly been one of the most worthwhile travel experiences of my life.
I'm going to be taking you with me on some of my journeys and, once a month, showing you how you can incorporate some Latina culture into your home. Enjoy!
In the months of light nights, picnics and barbecues, it's tempting to start setting your sights on a winter holiday. Spending December on a Cuban beach with a Pina Colada in hand sounds much appealing than cold, dark commutes and waking up early to defrost the car. But there is a more sustainable way to eternalise summer and it starts at home.
Since we all love spending time in the kitchen, there’s no better room to turn into a Caribbean paradise. All it takes is a bit of colour, creativity, and maybe a splash of rum for good measure. In this six-step guide, we’ll show you all the steps to add some Cuban flavour into your kitchen. No trips over the Atlantic required, and not a single grain of rice, bean or plantain chip in sight!
Step 1: Find a Tropical Colour Palette that Pops
Besides salsa dancing, if there's one thing that Cubans have a natural gift for, it's colour. Walk down any street in the tiny colonial city of Trinidad, and you'll see houses painted in candy coloured hues for miles.
In the UK, it's quite unlikely that the Smith’s would be too fond of you if you painted your house pink. The good news is that colours like beige, grey and terracotta can stay outside where they belong.
Find a tropical colour scheme that make you feel energetic and then get out that Dulux colour chart!
The high street is full of kitchen accessories that pop. You’ll be able to find crockery and gadgets that compliment your colour scheme perfectly and help to add the picture-perfect finishing touches to your Caribbean kitchen.
Step 2: Use Tiles as a Focal Design Point
Both eye catching and colourful, intricately painted tiles can look amazing in your bright, beautiful kitchen.
One of the best things about tiles is that they’re incredibly versatile and you don’t need to use a lot of them to create a stunning effect.
If you want to save money, or just dip your toes into this trend, you can use a few decorated tiles to break up a wall of plain coloured ones. Or, if you want to go all out, you could have a full feature tiled wall, or even just use them to decorate the space above your oven.
Step 3: Go Back to Nature and Bring Some Foliage Into Your Kitchen
A selection of well-placed plants will instantly make your kitchen feel tropical. Not only will they look fantastic against your new colourful walls, they'll also add a touch of humidity which you'll be grateful for in those cold, dry months!
Cubans love to go back to nature when it comes to decorating. Almost every colourful house is complimented by a tree full of bright pink or orange flowers. Whether you choose to incorporate flowers or not is up to you. Just make sure that your choice can survive the heat of a kitchen. The delicate yet resilient Jasmine is a great option with a light, refreshing fragrance that’s perfect for masking odours.
Step 4: Grow your Own
With a turbulent history and years of trade embargoes under their belt, Cubans have self-efficiency down to a tee. Visit any Cuban’s house and they'll be sure to fix you up a glass of mango juice - made fresh with the mangos picked from their garden.
Here in the UK, we might not have the tropical climate for growing bananas, avocados and papayas, but we shouldn't let that put us off growing some of our own.
Even if you weren’t born with green fingers, herbs like parsley, mint and basil are all easy to grow indoors. You don't even need a garden for this as a sunny windowsill will suffice.
We recommend popping them in a colourful pot so that they can double up as an accessory, too!
Step 5: Shake it Out in the Cocktail Corner
Now that you've got that mint growing there's only one thing to do with it - make mojitos!
Cuba is the home of the mojito... and the daiquiri.... and the aptly named, Cuba Libre.
It goes without saying that cocktails are a pretty big deal in Cuba and it's only appropriate that you harvest a special place for them in your kitchen, too.
Get all the tools you might need and of course, a generous bottle of Havana Rum. You could sketch up your cocktail menu on a little blackboard to make this area feel extra special (and to remind yourself how much rum to add after having a few…).
Step 6: Ditch the Coffee Machine
Do you want to know what kitchen appliances have had their day in the sun?
Filter coffee machines and capsule coffee machines.
Not only are these bulk machines pretty bad for the environment, they also make a substandard cup of coffee. Something that would definitely affront a Cuban!
Coffee in Cuba is a serious deal. And be warned, if your palette has been raised on caramel macchiatos and vanilla mocha frappuccinos, the seriously strong but sweet concoction preferred by Cubans might take some getting used to.
To brew the perfect cup, Cubans go for the old fashion stove pot espresso maker. Not only is this simple and inexpensive, it takes up no room at all and can be stored in a cupboard when you're not using it.
So, treat yourself to some of your favourite beans and start looking forward to a more intense cup of coffee. One that will certainly have you buzzing for hours.
Step 7: Start Decorating!
All that’s left for now is to get out the paint and accessories and start creating your own Cuban paradise. Whether you go for the full Havana special for just follow a couple of steps, these design tips will help bottle summer up and brighten that dull kitchen.
If you have any extra tips on how to make your home feel more tropical, please share them with us in the comments below. Here’s to happier and more tropical kitchens!
Don't miss next month's post where I'll be giving you insider tips on how to bring some Mexican fever into your house!
Writer - Nicole Arnott - Wee Gypsy Girl