When the mercury rises in Valencia, do as the locals do and reach for the horchata. This traditional drink is cooling and tasty as well as being believed to have numerous health benefits – including reducing cholesterol – that generations of Valencians have sworn by.
Horchata is now such a treasured product, there is a regulatory body protecting the authentic methods of production.
Tiger nuts, grown from rows of lush green grass-like plants on the outskirts of the city and in the countryside, are harvested and gathered in special drying rooms, where they stay for a minimum of three months. This slow process ensures the carbohydrates turn gradually to sugars – the main sweetness of the drink is from the nut itself, although sugar is added – giving a very particular flavour.
Fresh horchata is made from nuts soaked in water and sugar. The mixture is blended until the nuts are very fine and then passed through a sieve, leaving just the thick white liquid. It is served chilled in horchaterias, cafes and restaurants across Valencia, where you will often be offered a farton with your order. This sweet pastry is great for dipping in your drink!
Horchata can also be used as a replacement for milk for those who are lactose intolerant. This is thought to be one reason it is becoming very popular in the US.
You can even take a tour of the fields growing the chufa, or tiger nuts, which go into it and join the professionals in making it. Find out more at http://www.hortaviva.net/en/rutas/de-la-chufa-a-la-horchata/