Refreshing, healthy and irresistibly delicious. These are some of the qualities of Tiger Nut Horchata, one of the jewels of Valencian cuisine, whose flavour has captivated both locals and visitors for thousands of years. Many horchaterias offer this drink, which is simple to prepare but which offers countless benefits for our health.
Esgarraet garlic sauce or the world-famous Valencian paella are some of the traditional dishes that are served on the Levantine coast, but tiger nut horchata is perhaps the most popular of the lot. This is a very cosmopolitan beverage. Although there are also European and South American varieties, the Valencian version is said to be the best.
Making it is as simple as it is fun, and only a handful of ingredients are needed. All you need is water, sugar, cinnamon or lemon peel as flavourings and the delicious tiger nuts that give this drink its name.
More than fifteen localities cultivate the Valencian tiger nut, a rugged tuber with a sweet taste and an earthy appearance that is extracted from the cyperus esculentus plant. This is a natural drink which only uses tiger nuts grown in the Valencia region itself.
Horchata of pharaohs and medieval knights
Although it is popular throughout the Mediterranean, the origins of horchata are actually in the Chuf region of Sudan, in all probability with the Egyptian civilization, as various archaeological findings have shown. For the pharaohs it must have been a delicacy of the gods, something like the Greek ambrosia. Numerous sarcophagi have revealed the presence of dried tiger nuts in funerary regalia.
From Africa it was passed on to us by the Arabs, and started to be widely cultivated in 13th century. In 1795 testimonies were discovered in the Alboraya region that refer to ‘tiger nut milk’. The etymology suggests that ‘horchata’ might come from the Italian ‘Orzata’, but medieval legends indicate a much more unusual origin. That would be the Aragonese king Jaime I who, after tasting the tiger nut horchata offered to him by a peasant, would exclaim that it was not milk, Açò és or, Xata! (‘This is golden horchata!’), thereby coining the word orxata, as this ancestral drink would then be known.
Alboraya has become the main exporter of tiger nuts in Valencia. In Valencia the horchaterias are proud to have elevated the preparation of this delicacy to the level of an art form. El Collado has enjoyed an enviable longevity, although the horchaterías Daniel ( which was founded in 1960), Santa Catalina and El Siglo, both in the plaza Santa Catalina also won’t disappoint demanding palates either.
Along with the popular fartons, Valencian horchata are unrivalled in flavour. It is a source of potassium, calcium and vitamins E and C. This gastronomic jewel has proven itself perfect for combating cardiovascular diseases and many other ailments. Come and experience tourism in Valencia!