One of Valencia’s many culinary inventions is the drink now better known throughout Spain as ‘horchata’, originally called orxata de xufes in Valenciano.
Like paella and gazpacho it’s a Spanish staple but, unlike these other two great tourist favourites, it has received far less publicity and its consumption is confined almost exclusively to the domestic market.
When visiting Spain you will notice that many cafes display, along with the perennial orange juice and slush puppy containers, vats of a substance that resembles milk. Consisting of crushed tiger nuts, water and sugar, horchata is served chilled and is a brilliantly refreshing drink, especially in the heat of the summer.
As every self-respecting valenciano knows, the true home of horchata is the town of Alboraya (Alboraia), which borders Valencia. Locals flock to Alboraya’s horchaterías, of which Horchateria Daniel in particular is a very popular destination since it also claims to be the birthplace of the farton, a (optionally cream-filled) pastry that closely resembles an éclair and is ideally shaped to be dipped into a glass of horchata.
If you don’t feel inclined to venture from central Valencia, you can enjoy a glass in one of Valencia’s most atmospheric buildings. The Horchatería y Chocolatería de Santa Catalina is housed in a beautiful old building in the historic Plaza de la Reina and features some elaborate tiling on both the exterior and the interior of the building.
Several countries in Latin America also enjoy a drink called horchata, but this is made with rice.
One of the key benefits of classic Valencian horchata is that, despite the name, tigernut is actually the plant cyperus esculentas: since it has no relation to nuts (and still less to tigers) it is completely safe for people with nut allergies and is also suitable for vegetarians and vegans.