Get ready, America. It’s only a matter of time before Spanish horchata becomes the new super-healthy it drink. Unlike milky-white Mexican horchata—made by straining and sweetening a pureed blend of raw rice and water—Spanish horchata is made from tiger nuts (shown above), a tuber that thrives in the area around Valencia.
Often called chufa in Spain, tiger nuts were brought to the Iberian peninsular by the Arabs in the 8th century. The ancient Egyptians knew a good thing; they’ve been cultivating tiger nuts for over 4,000 years. Although the tubers are about the size of a pea, they pack a wallop of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids, while the list of health benefits goes on and on, from improving digestion, to helping with hot flashes, cleansing the liver, as well as possessing anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties.
Walk into a horchateria in Valencia, and you’ll be served a tall glass filled with an ice-cold liquid the color of pale cappuccino, with a flavor faintly reminiscent of caramel and almonds. Although it looks milky, it’s dairy-free, and it goes down easily.
The best version I had was at La Huertana, a stand in the Mercado Centrale, which claims to be the largest indoor market building in Europe. Along with the horchata come long fingers of a soft, lightly sweetened bread called fartons (yes, you read that right!). Dip the warm fartons into the chilled liquid for a delightful play of simultaneous hot and cold sensations in your mouth. Eager to try horchata? Order it from LaTienda.com.