The panela is one of the flagship products of Colombian gastronomy. It is used as an ingredient in the preparation of recipes and beverages such as the popular “agua de panela” (a juice made from the panela, water and lemon). Likewise, it stands out as a quintessential natural sweetener. According to the nutritionist Claudia Figueroa*; who based on scientific evidence, affirms that panela has health benefits. This is because it manages to retain nutritional properties, rich in carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins during its artisanal production process. Also, the panela is attributed energizing power and a unique flavor.
The panela is made from sugar cane. This cane is one of the oldest crops in the world. It arrived in Colombia in colonial times along with the sugar mills (in spanish trapiches) which is the machine that extracts the juices from the cane. Peasants have traditionally produced panela and have done it by hand in places that are also known as trapiches.
During the production process, the juice extracted from sugar cane loses moisture at various boiling points and concentrates to form a thick, soft molasses or dough, which will solidify into blocks after cooling and drying. The peasants were the ones who initially consumed it and later it became popular in all households. Nowadays, the panela has become a main product in the Colombian national identity, where there are: 23,000 sugar mills and 350,000 families involved in the production of the panela.
The panela (dried sugar cane) in other countries
In addition to Colombia, the panela is also widely known in other Latin American countries, although many times with different names. It can be known as Chancaca or Papelón (Venezuela, Chile, Argentina or Perú) Piloncillo (Mexico), Rapadura (Brazil, Panama), pepa dulce, papelón, atado de dulce, tapa de dulce, empanizao and raspadura de guarapo.
- (2014) Lo secretos nutricionales de la panela, El Espectador.