Travel in Colombia for more than 15 minutes and you will encounter panela, the country’s beloved brick of raw, unrefined sugar that’s used in all sorts of food including the ubiquitous aguapanela and guarapo beverages. One scary study estimated that Colombians consume more than 75 pounds (34.2 kg) of panela every year. Residents of plenty of other countries love it too, though they call it by different names like chancaca in Chile, Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia and gur or jaggery in India.
Colombia produces 1.4 million tons of panela a year. It’s a major part of the economy and the country even holds an annual National Panela Pageant. Much of the panela is made in big factories, but some is still made in small, traditional, semi-automated workshops called trapiches. We came across one on the side of the road and stopped to watch the process of making panela–from sugar cane to finished brick.
Here’s how to make panela
Here’s more about travel in Colombia
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I will never get it. I will never appreciate panela. I didn’t even like agua de panela con queso. LOL. I much prefer the fruit juices :)
We never learned to love panela either – a bit like brown sugar but somehow more cloying. It was fun to watch it being made, however.
Panela alone, I do not like. However, panela lemonade is one of the most refreshing drinks I’ve ever had. I dilute a panela chunk in cold water, add lime juice, tons of ice and drink away. Delicious!
Panela is a source of minerals. You put water to boil, put panela, let it untie and put aromatic herbs and let it rest for five minutes and you enjoy it, you can also add lemon or orange juice. You serve it hot in winter and cold in summer. It is comforting and healthy.