Horchata can be found throughout the world made with different ingredients. The one that the Spanish enjoy is made from the Chufa or Tigernut. They have known about this nut for more than 3,000 years. The origin is from Central and Northern Africa and it is said that the nut was brought to Spain in the 8th century by the Arabs, who used the nut to make horchata for special occasions. Now, the nut flourishes in Southern and Eastern Spain as well as Northern Morocco. It is planted in April and May and harvested in November.
Horchata is most common in the Comunidad Valenciana. Before refrigeration was common, horchata was made in the mountains surrounding Valencia and stored in snow to keep it cold as it was brought down to sell in the city. Now a days, you can find horchata in almost every bar, and even in carts specifically selling the drink on the street. It is the perfect summer drink because it is cold and refreshing. It comes in liquid form, or my favorite, icy form. Horchata is traditionally pared with a sweet, tube shaped pastry called a Farton which is usually dunked into the drink before being eaten. Many of Spain’s Chufas are grown in a town called Alboraya near Valencia. Here you can spend a day on a Horchata tour learning about how the nut is farmed and even take a class on how to make the drink before trying some of the freshest horchata de chufa in all of Spain.
Horchata is a surprisingly healthy drink. Since it is made with nuts, it has a lot of protein. It also has a high content of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, complex carbohydrates and vitamins E and C. Many people who are lactose intolerant use horchata as a substitute for milk.
Even if you are not planning a trip to Spain anytime soon you can make horchata at home. Believe it or not it is very easy! All you need is some tigernuts, water, sugar, a cinnamon stick and lemon zest. It takes some time for the flavors to blend together but it is well worth the wait! Order some here if you aren’t in Spain.
There are many places in Valencia to get authentic homemade horchata. My favorite just happens to be the oldest in the city. Horchateria Santa Catalina is just off the Plaza de la Reina near the Santa Catalina Church. The shop is inside an old house that says it has “more than 200 years of tradition.” Inside you can see some beautiful architecture and great examples of ceramic tiles that are traditional in Valencia. Oh, and the horchata is pretty good too!
You can hear me read a shorter version of this post and learn some other cool things about Valencia on The Spain Uncovered Podcast.