It’s starting to heat up in Valencia now, and with the warmer weather than May is bringing, you need to know how you can cool down and refresh in this more-humid-than-expected Mediterranean coastal city. The last few months have been beautiful here, but the sun hasn’t really been trying too hard at all – but now the 30 degree days are arriving and you need to know how to stay cool. This brings me on to the topic for today, Horchata. Before I came to Valencia on the east coast of Spain I’d never heard of this silky Chufa seed drink that is very much a local specialty. A little history of what Horchata is and where it comes from, then I’ll dive into where to find a great spot to enjoy it. If you are searching for a beach-side coffee or beer, then I have the perfect place for you to check out on the beaches of Valencia.
These chufa nuts are also known as Tiger Nuts, first found in Egypt in the 6th millennium BCE. The drink survived all the way through Roman times, and continues to be popular today. One of the reasons that Valencia is central in continuing this tradition is that the growing centre of the plant is right outside the city. Alboraya is a suburb of Valencia, but really, it’s attached and only a five-ten minute bike ride away from the restaurants in Cabanal that I’ve previously mentioned. The Alboraya area is absolutely worth visiting, as it contains the ‘huertas’ (orchards/fields) where these crops grow. That means the area is surprisingly beautiful, with long flat fields and fun paths winding between them.
The horchateria has been a central part of the community for hundreds of years in Valencia, and Santa Catalina Horchateria is one of the best-known and most-loved. It’s located right in the centre of the old town, a very short walk away from the Valencia Cathedral and beautiful Plaza de la Virgen.
This is a place that puts great value in the history of the area, and the walls are painted with stories from the conquest of Valencia, medieval farming scenes and views of Valencia. With the parquet floor, very neat and tidy waiters dressed in white and purple and fantastic drinks and food, it’s a perfect place to escape the heat.
I really think that Horchata is a drink that grows on you, as the first time I tried it, I wasn’t at all sure. But after a couple more attempts my tongue recognised the flavour a little more comfortably, and started to be able to appreciate the sweet/bitter mix of the nut, as well as the refreshing and cooling quality. In this horchateria you can also try the traditional ‘farton’ sweet pastries that go perfectly with the cool and smooth and slightly bitter horchata.
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