The sun is out and the temperature is rising. When the heat is on, or after a busy day sightseeing in Valencia, there is nothing more refreshing than a cold glass of horchata. Enjoying this delicious tiger nut drink from one of the many terraces in the city is a quintessentially Valencian experience that every visitor should try.
Horchata is not just a very tasty drink, but an incredibly healthy one too. And because there is no lactose in it (despite being sometimes translated as tiger nut milk), it can be enjoyed by everyone.
According to a legend, the name horchata comes from the expression “aixo es or, xata” (this is gold, darling) which James I expressed when offered a glass by a little girl on entering the city of Valencia, which he reconquered from the Moors. A product that can help fight diseases, improve your skin and circulation, and, according to some, even act as an aphrodisiac, certainly lives up to its name: pure gold indeed!
Here are a few more things you should know about horchata:
- Horchata is made of mashed tiger nuts or chufas (xufa in Valencian), mixed with water and sugar (although there are also options with very little or no sugar). Despite being called a nut, chufas are in fact small tubers, just like potatoes, grown in the huerta surrounding Valencia. You can buy dried chufas and eat them as a fibre – packed snack too.
- The Valencian chufa has its own D.O (Designation of Origin), as one of the officially recognised local products. This means that its cultivation is regulated and subject to quality controls. Always look for the “chufa de Valencia” symbol.
- You can buy bottles of horchata in any supermarket, but many may be industrially produce and have less good properties. Always look for “horchata natural”, which you will find served in the best horchaterias in Valencia. Or for a drink on the go, look for the Mon Orxata carts, which you will find parked in busy areas around stations or main attractions throughout the city.
- A recent scientific study proved that natural horchata is very rich in phospholipids, which help protect cells, and contains 70/80% unsaturated fats which, consumed in moderation, can help lower cholesterol. Besides, it contains arginine, an amino acid that helps blood vessels relax improving circulation, and can also help people with type 2 diabetes. What else do you want?
- You can apply the health benefits of horchata on your skin too, as it is used in cosmetics which you can even order online. How about a rich moisturising horchata soap, a tasty lip balm or a magical anti-age cream?
- The traditional way of enjoying horchata in Valencia is by dipping fartons in it, the delicious long, light and slightly iced pastries typical of Valencia (with a name that will make children giggle!)
- Natural horchata will only last for three days, but you can enjoy it back home any time if you make it yourself! Just buy chufas in Valencia and follow this recipe: Soak the chufas for 12 hours, drain them and then mix with water in a food processor (one litre of water per 250 grams of chufas). Strain the mixture and add sugar to taste. A few hours in the fridge and that’s it! Your home-made horchata is ready, nice and easy.
- But, of course, it is much nicer when drunk in Valencia! Here is our pick of the best places to try it:
o Horchateria Santa Catalina (Plaza Santa Catalina 6): a historic café with beautiful tiled walls just off Plaza de la Reina in the heart of Valencia
o Helados Bertal (Plaza de la Reina 12): relax with an horchata while enjoying great views of Valencia’s Cathedral
o Horchateria Daniel (Mercado de Colon): besides their main café in Alboraya, their outlet inside the beautiful Colon Market is the perfect place for a pit stop while out shopping
o Horchateria El Collado (Ercilla 13): another popular outlet in the city centre, also renowned for its buñuelos (typical Valencian dougnuts).
Just remember, however good horchata may be, like everything, it should be drunk in moderation…