CADO logo, featuring organic sugarcane against a blue sky

Organic Unrefined Sugar

Organic unrefined sugar from CADO is a natural sweetener, produced under fair trade conditions by a community group of sugar cane farmers in an area of extreme poverty in the mountains of Ecuador.  Our farmers know it as "panela", and it has been made here for generations.
Unrefined sugar has just one ingredient – sugar cane juice.  The juice is simply boiled and evaporated until it forms a dense syrup or molasses, which is put in molds to set (for “loaves” or “bricks” of sugar), or stirred until it granulates.  So, unrefined sugar has all the taste and goodness of the sugarcane, for example various minerals and trace vitamins, with none of the artificial additives of refined sugar.
Traditionally, unrefined sugar is made in small quantities in a large copper pan over a fire of bagasse (the dry sugar cane stalks from which the juice was extracted). The copper pans cost hundreds of dollars and are passed down from one generation to the next.  Some of our panela producers still make unrefined sugar this way on their family farms, using their hand-tended organic sugarcane.  But not all of our farmers have a copper pan, or the money to buy one, so CADO has a micro-factory to which they can take their cane and make unrefined sugar or panela there.  The factory has very simple machinery and, like our plantations, cane mills and family copper pans, is certified organic and fair trade.
Unrefined sugar has many names – it’s also known as whole cane sugar, panela, rapadura sugar or evaporated cane juice (but is NOT the same as raw sugar, which is actually refined).  In addition to many Spanish names for it in Latin American countries, unrefined sugar is known in Asia as jaggery or gur.
Our organic granulated unrefined sugar is made either on the family farms or in our micro-factory, which is run by the various communities which make up CADO.  The panela is made from cane cut by hand on our certified organic, fair trade family farms.  Production starts by carefully washing the cane to get rid of impurities such as soil.  The cane stalks are crushed in a mill to extract the juice, which is simply evaporated over heat, hence “evaporated cane juice”.  Nothing is added and nothing is taken away – which is why it is known as “whole cane sugar”.  The temperature is carefully controlled to regulate the evaporation and when the boiling sugar cane juice reaches the ideal strength it is quickly moved to another container.  We monitor the sugar content in degrees Brix (°Bx – an internationally used measure of the sucrose content of an aqueous solution) to determine strength, but in fact our farmers learned from their grandparents to recognise “the point” well before they knew what °Bx meant.  It’s a bit like making jam: after decades of experience, you just know when it’s ready.
Traditionally, granulated unrefined sugar is made by putting this boiling liquid into a trough and beating it with paddles.  It’s back-breaking work as the liquid thickens until, all of a sudden, a cloud of steam rises and the evaporated cane juice turns instantly to powdery granules.  Our little factory uses mechanical paddles, rather than manual labour, but the process is just the same.  This means our older or disabled farmers and those who don’t have the physical strength needed to beat the juice can still earn a fair price from their organic sugar cane crop.
This fair trade, organic, unrefined granulated sugar is sieved to ensure a homogenous product. Once it is cool and dry, the whole cane sugar is packed for export – either in bulk, or in sale-ready packets, whichever our customers prefer.  It can also be labelled as rapadura sugar, panela or evaporated cane juice, because they are all the same thing.
The organic, fair trade unrefined sugar made by the CADO community group of farmers is of high quality.  It is artisan-made from organic sugarcane grown on small family farms using traditional methods.  The fair price allows our members to improve their quality of life, educate their children and care for the environment on their ancestral lands.  We produce up to 12 tons a month of organic panela, and we’re ready to export it to you, a sweet greeting from our families to yours.  Email us for fair trade prices for organic, unrefined, granulated sugar.

Unrefined sugar - an organic, fair trade product from CADO
Granulated, organic, fair trade whole cane sugar (also known as rapadura sugar, evaporated cane juice or panela) made by a community enterprise.
CRACYP logo - a tree
Microfactory for producing organic, unrefined sugar, with organic sugar cane stalks in the foreground
Copper pan full of boiling sugarcane juice with scoop, used for making evaporated cane juice.
Making organic rapadura sugar in a traditional copper pan
Organic whole cane sugar packed ready for sale at a fair price.
Artisan-made panela sugar being poured into a traditional trough
Granulated evaporated cane juice sugar being made in traditional trough