From Bags of Coffee to Bricks of Panela
April 12, 2017
This is a photo of one of several bricks of panela sugar we brought back from a Colombia visit, November 2016. Panela is common in most parts of Latin America where sugarcane is grown, produced by reducing sugarcane juice over a fire, then cooling into solid cubes using tin molds. (In Mexico they call this "piloncillo"). It's used interchangeably with refined sugar, but the flavor is quite different, imparting complex flavors in common sweets like sugar cookies, lemonade, and more.
Sometimes we use the term "panela" to define a coffee's sweetness, signaling the complex flavor and aroma found in the sugar itself, rather than the simplicity of table sugar or even brown sugar (which is just refined white sugar with molasses added back in). Depending on whether tasting dark or light, flavor notes span the range of molasses to caramel, and aromatics that verge on floral.
Some of the coffee farmers we buy coffee from grow sugarcane as well, and make panela bricks to sell locally. This particular block is from a farmer named Humberto Cortez in La Plata, Huila. He's a member of a local cooperative we buy coffee from, and whose coffee was included in a regional blends from our most recent container. Lucky for us, Humberto sold us 22 kg of his panela in addition to a few bags of his coffee! -Dan
We don't sell panela but we do sell coffees that have panela notes. CLICK HERE to check out our offerings (current and out-of-stock) that remind us of this brown brick of sugar.