Totally Inexplicable Things Colombians Love #4: Agua de Panela

Every culture (and every individual within that culture) has its own methods for dealing with illness, or even just the common cold. Some people swear by garlic cloves, others resort to endless bowls of chicken soup or other kinds of comforting broth, while still others just pop NyQuil until they’ve convinced themselves they feel better. I’m personally terrible at being sick — my two coping mechanisms, in order, are total denial and then eating whole oranges while drinking incessant cups of herbal tea with honey until I can’t think about citrus anymore. It may not be the most medically advanced strategy, but I haven’t died yet, so I have no evidence that it isn’t working.

I’ve only had a cold once so far in Colombia, and thank god, because while I may have the constitution to deal with Colombian gripa, I’m definitely not strong enough to handle the universally accepted cure: agua de panela.

Let’s start with the basics. Panela is a solid form of sugarcane, produced primarily in the coffee region of Colombia and sold in square blocks in pretty much any market across the country. It functions as a sugar substitute, since it essentially is just a block of unrefined whole cane sugar. It’s delicious in coffee, but less so when it’s the main ingredient of a drink.

Those of you who took Spanish in high school may have figured out by now that agua de panela is exactly what it sounds like: panela water. There’s nothing more to it — just a block of panela dissolved in warm water and served like a piping hot cup of sweet tea. I’m sure both Southerners and butterflies would delight in this beverage, but as someone who prefers my sweet drinks to involve fruit, it’s not really, dare I say, my cup of tea.

But that sure puts me in the minority here. Agua de panela is nationally accepted as the most effective and highly recommended cure — or preventative measure — for the common cold. It’s cold outside? Agua de panela. You’re coughing? Agua de panela. It’s 11 a.m.? Why not have some agua de panela?

Given how much soda Colombians typically consume, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the national preference for drinking sugar water at the drop of a hat. Still, the next time I start sneezing, you can find me in a corner with my tea and oranges — hold the butterfly nectar, please.

Other Totally Inexplicable Things Colombians Love:

#5. Inappropriate Uses of English

#6. Colombia’s Got Talent

#7. Horrifying Jeans

#8. Malls

#9. Wearing Heels Everywhere, All the Time

#10. ’80s Rock/Hair Metal Bands

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Totally Inexplicable Things Colombians Love #4: Agua de Panela

  1. At a bike race, the Tour de l’Avenir, something like the Tour de France minor league, a Soviet team was flabergasted by the Colombian team’s drink habits. One of the bike racers pointed out that the Colombians took a brick, put it in a pan with water, and then they drank that water! Unless it’s lemmon added, i would never drink aguapanela!
    Hope you did find peanutbutter. Exito sells Duffy and some other commercial brands, but i you like to get something like home-made go to Quinua & Amaranto (Calle 11 2-95).
    I’m glad you wrote the piece on US cocaine consumer habits. I founded it featured on globalvoicesonline.org – hope people pay heed to you.
    Enjoy your time in Colombia!

  2. Pingback: Totally Inexplicable Things Colombians Love #3: Aguardiente | a year without peanut butter

  3. Pingback: Totally Inexplicable Things Colombians Love #2: Giving Unsolicited (Beauty) Advice | a year without peanut butter

  4. Limón, you have to add it and is the best thing you could ever try. I don´t like it hot because I live in Valle del Cauca so it’s always warm. Who likes warm things when it’s warm? You have to drink aguapanela con limón.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s