or agua de panela
is a drink native to southern Central America and northern South America. It literally means "panela water" as it is an infusion made from panela
which is a hardened, concentrated sirup from the cane
. It is fairly common in Colombia
, making this country the largest consumer of panela per capita.
Aguapanela is made by melting fragments of panela
in water and stirring until the fragments are entirely dissolved. The drink may be served hot or cold, with lemon
often being added. In the hot form, sometimes milk or a chunk of cheese
is added in place of fruit juice.
Aguapanela is the traditional drink served with many dishes in the colombian cuisine
, especially in the paisa region
, such as to accompany the bandeja paisa
and the sancocho
soup, and it is often also served alone as a thirst
Many claims have been made about the beneficial effects of aguapanela, based on beliefs such as having more vitamin C than orange juice or as many rehydrating minerals as Gatorade. Popular belief also considers it a helpful drink for the treatment of colds.
Canelazo is an alcoholic version of aguapanela with cinnamon and aguardiente added to it. Sugar is rubbed on the edges of the glass when served.
Since panela is a relatively cheap, locally produced food, most of the poor people in Colombia, especially the peasants, obtain the majority of their caloric intake from it. In many cases panela and small amounts of rice
are the only foods available, due to the scarcity and high prices of other products rich in proteins
, such as meat
. This phenomenon causes in the child population a high rate of kwashiorkor
. The Colombian government tries to paliate this situation by providing soy
-derived flour to the poor as a source of protein.