Horchata, the most refreshing drink for summer
Valencia Orxata de Chufa (Tiger Nut Milk) is one of the region’s gastronomic treasures. Refreshing and nutritious, during the hot summer months there is no better drink. It is made with water, tiger nuts and sugar for a very original, sweet and slightly creamy taste, truly a pleasure for the palate. Horchata is traditionally accompanied by “fartons”, a sweet Valencia biscuit, similar to a sponge finger.
Legend has it that during the Spanish Reconquest, King Jaume I rode by Valencia and bewildered with the heat, asked for something to quench his thirst. A little girl offered him a bowl containing a cold and whitish coloured drink, telling him that it was tiger nut milk. When the king tried the drink, he was so surprised by the taste that he said “Açò no és llet, açò és or, xata” (“This isn’t milk, this is gold, little girl”).
Thus, this typical Valencian drink was christened “orxata” (tiger nut gold). The name really comes from the latin “hordeata”, meaning made with barley, as in other places orxata is made with rice, barley, sesame and hazelnuts.
Although tiger nuts were eaten in Ancient Eygpt, the Arabs were the ones who introduced orxata to Valencia in the Middle Ages. They used to drink it for its digestive and medicinal properties, as it is very rich in vitamins and minerals.
If you go to Valencia, you are sure to want to try this delicious drink. Here are some traditional orxata parlours which are quite popular amongst the locals there.
The best places to drink tiger nut milk in Valencia
- Horchatería Daniel (41, Avenida de la Horchata. Alboraya). Opened in 1960, it is one of the great orxata and farton classics. Well known figures such as the famous Salvador Dali and Rafael Alberti have passed by here. From December to February it is closed.
- El Collado (13, Plaza de Doctor Collado). It consists of one of those old places with marble top tables. They specialise in chocolate with buñuelos (similar to donuts) in winter, and home made orxata and ice-cream when the weather gets hot. It is open every day in summer.
- Horchatería El Siglo (11, Plaza Santa Catalina). Located in the historic centre and founded in 1836, this parlour is the oldest of them all. Their home made orxata is the best in the city of Valencia. They also offer a wide variety of home made ice-cream.
- Horchatería Santa Catalina (6, Plaza Santa Catalina). Comprising another very typical and quaint little establishment with almost two centuries of tradition. This orxata parlour has lovely decoration inside with traditional Manises Valencian ceramics.
If you want to learn a little bit more about orxata then you can visit the Tiger Nut Milk Museum (Museo de la Horchata y la Chufa) in Alboraya. It is housed in the 16th century Machistre farmhouse, allowing you to also discover how people lived in Valencia three hundred years ago. Booking in advance is necessary.
Which is your favourite horchata parlour in Valencia? Send us a comment and share your secret!