Do you know the backstory of the famous Valencian drink? Horchata or ‘Orxata’ in Valenciano, is the most iconic non-alcoholic drink associated with the area. It is made of chufa nuts, more commonly known as “tiger nuts” in English. The drink is sweet, yet refreshing and can often have a touch of lemon or cinnamon flavours.
Interesting fact, tiger nut is not actually a traditional nut; it is a root of a wetland plant known as sedge. This ingredient has recently gained more and more attention due to the nutritious values it has, in fact, chufas are high in fibre and iron.
There are different origin stories of the name but the most popular one is about how the 13th century King of Aragon, Jaume I was conquering the region and exploring the orchard where the chufas are grown. Hot and sweaty, he was offered a drink which was to his tasting and he asked what it was, the girl said that it is chufa milk and the king responded: “¡Això no es llet, això és or, xata!” which translates into “This is not milk; this is gold, my dear!”
Funnily enough, the origin of the super-ingredient isn’t Valencia but ancient Egypt where it was highly prized for its health benefits. Over time, the use of the chufas expanded to the rest of North Africa and then found itself in the Community of Valencia. It was introduced in the Mediterranean during the time when Arab influence was at its height within the Iberian Peninsula.
Now, for more than a millennia the cultivation of chufas has continued across 19 different towns in Valencia. The sandy soil and the Valencian climate create the perfect conditions for the growth of the plant. In fact, you can visit the famous orchard in the town of Alboraya with a tour guide or by cycling.
A much-recommended location to sip some of the tiger nut goodness is Horchatería Daniel which can be turned into a day trip to the town of Alboraya. The city of Valencia also has places that cannot be missed; near Mercado Central there is the beautifully tiled Horchateria Santa Catalina where you can accompany your beverage with some churros or fartons. For those of you who are unfamiliar with fartons, they are a pastry with a delicate layer of icing on top; they are a nice pairing with the tiger nut drink. Another place with a nice ambience is Casa Orxata which is a Bio Horchateria in Mercado de Colón. What makes this venue unique is that the horchata is made without additional sugar, but those with a sweet tooth have the option to add some to their personal taste and preference.
Report by Nicole Maka-Sprawa
Article copyright ‘24/7 Valencia’
Address – Av. de la Horchata 41, 46120, Alboraya
Instagram – @horchateria.daniel
Website – https://horchateria-daniel.es/
HORCHATERIA SANTA CATALINA
Address – Plaza Santa Catalina 6, 46001, Valencia
Telephone – (+34) 96 391 23 79
Address – Colon Market, Calle Jorge Juan, 46004 Valencia, Spain
Instagram – @casaorxata
Website – http://casaorxata.com/