Maybe your next destination is Spain this summer… Tiger nut Horchata (Orxata de xufa in the Valencia area and Catalonia, Horchata de chufa in other areas) is a vegetal milk made from tiger nuts, water, and sugar. That might sound a little different to what you normally drink, but what it will bring you is freshness and plenty of nutrients to support you though the heat of this sunny country.
Horchata is originally from Alboraya near Valencia where the tiger nuts are grown. Spain is the unique tiger nuts producer in Europe and the first producer in the world. Tiger nuts (cyperaceae cyperus esculentus) are a very old plant from Egypt: some were found in sarcophagi and in tombs. They belong to the same family as the papyrus. They are brown on the outside and yellow on the inside. The culture of these tubers was introduced in Spain by the Moorish, who were present here from the 8th century to the 12th century. They found the area of Valencia a good environment for growing tiger nuts.
The name itself could come from the King, James I of Aragon who was drinking Horchata and who would have said in the local idiom “Açò no és llet, açò és OR, XATA!” (this is not milk, this is gold, sweetheart). But it’s more likely that it comes from the Latin hordeata (hordeum: barley). You will pronounce it easily: Or (like Origami) Cha (like Chat) Ta (like Ta-da).
The taste is sweet and particular, somewhere between soya milk and almond milk. Very popular in Spain, the Spanish drink liters of Horchata every year. And while you might not appreciate the taste at first, persevere, the first glass is not sufficient. It is worth it!
Tips for Drinking Horchata:
- The Horchata made in Valencia has a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin): ‘Chufa de Valencia‘.
- Always served fresh, it is a real relief to consume it during the hot summer days and will help you to stay hydrated. But you can enjoy Horchata throughout the year. The best place to consume it is in the horchaterías in Valencia for sure, but also in Barcelona and in a lot of other towns or villages throughout Spain. You’ll also find it at some street stalls.
- It’s a very natural drink, made of dried tiger nuts, which have been washed and left in water for several hours, triturated, and filtered. It contains carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins (mainly C and E). Horchata has no caffeine and no alcohol so everyone can drink it at any time of the day, and thanks to the lack of lactose and gluten it can be drunk by lactose-intolerant individuals and those who suffer from the coeliac disease.
- In Valencia, you’ll drink Horchata with fartons, a typical pastry of Valencia.
- Horchata is also used to make delicious ice creams and granitas.
- You can make Horchata yourself, it’s not complicated. But you must consume it in three days, maximum.
- You can find industrial Horchata, in particular with the trademark Chufi, but it includes milk proteins unlike the artisanal Horchata.
- As tiger nuts are not produced all around the world, you’ll find other types of Horchata with very different tastes. For example you’ll have rice Horchata in Mexico (always with cinnamon and sometimes with vanilla also), Horchata made from ground almonds, sesame seeds, herbs or barley…