Guarapo Goodness: The Sweet and Healthy Sugarcane Elixir
Guarapo is the fermented juice extracted directly from sugarcane and is popularly consumed in the form of a drink with a pleasant taste and excellent nutritional characteristics.
Sugarcane is native to South Asia. It is a plant species cultivated in tropical areas, so it requires water to grow and can reach a height of 5 to 6 meters.
These plants arrived in Hispaniola on Columbus’ third voyage in 1498.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, many Europeans prospered in the sugar industry in Cuba, Haiti, Mexico, and other countries in the Americas.
Sugar mills were built, and slaves did all the work cutting and processing the cane.
The Guarapo in Mexico
In the south of the Mexican Republic, you’ll find an extensive gastronomic variety inherited from communities such as the Mayans or the Chontales who live in Tabasco.
And thanks to the fusion of new flavors and their creativity, you can now enjoy guarapo, a trendy drink of the Chontal Indians.
This version is prepared with fermented sugar cane juice.
There is also “guarapo de maíz,” made from roasted and broken corn, ground panela, and water – left to ferment, acquiring a whitish color.
Again, the traditional guarapo is made from sugarcane and arrived in Mexico during colonial times when sugar cane was introduced from the Caribbean.
It’s not only consumed in the southeast of Mexico, but also in different Latin American countries. Depending on the region, it can be prepared from fruit, sap, or cane.
In Tabasco, in the municipalities of Nacajuca, Jalpa de Méndez, Centla, Centro, and Macuspana it is popular on the Day of the Dead.
It is customary to put it on the altar. People start producing it in mid-October to be ready the first days of November (the day of the dead is celebrated Nov 2nd).
The cane juice is extracted through the “trapiche,” a rustic wooden tool, and it has two rolls joined together through which the cane passes to be squeezed.
Once the juice is obtained, it is deposited in a container, a pot, or a large tub. It is then boiled and left for several days to ferment.
Is Guarapo non-alcoholic?
Yes, guarapo is non-alcoholic, however, during celebrations, mezcal or rum can be added to give it a more robust flavor, this is usually served to men, and the one for women is milder and doesn’t contain alcohol.
It is distributed during the festivities of their patron saints such as Las Ánimas, Señor de Tila, San Marcos, San Juan, and Señor Santiago, among others.
Hernán Cortés introduced sugar cane in Mexico in 1522; it was planted in Veracruz and then continued its expansion.
In the state of Tabasco, during the Spanish colony in the 16th century, the Chontal Indians began to elaborate a drink based on fermenting sugarcane juice, which became very popular among the indigenous population who used it mainly at parties and celebrations.
Today there are small sugar cane mills producing guarapo in many cities, including Guadalajara.
In Cuba, it is consumed very cold, as a soft drink, with the addition of crushed ice, in stands popularly known as “guaraperas,” where the cane juice is extracted and served fresh before it changes its color – turning dark.
Because of this negative characteristic of guarapo, all attempts to bottle it have so far been unsuccessful.
The guaraperas are scattered throughout the country thanks to the ease with which the mills are built and the abundance of sugar cane.
Many are established in some parts of the agro markets (markets where agricultural products are sold) in some central points of the cities.
However, it is still more frequent to see them in territories where sugar cane is cultivated.
Benefits of drinking Guarapo
As you know now, guarapo is the result of grinding sugar cane in a mill.
It has a high content of sugars, proteins, and calories, making it a nutritious and energizing drink.
Some of its main benefits include:
- Revitalizes the body, naturally increases energy levels, and supports rehydration
- Contains antioxidants to help fight infections and strengthen the body’s immune system
- It is a good digestive and improves the absorption of nutrients. It is recommended for cases of constipation
- Promotes the proper functioning of the renal system
- Due to its high zinc content, a mineral that contains antibacterial capacity, it promotes the elimination of bacteria responsible for bad breath
- Improves liver function, prevents jaundice and cancer