A glass of horchata and fartons, traditional pastries from Valencia.
Spanish horchata, from Valencia to the world
Horchata was already made from soaked, ground and sweetened tiger nuts (chufa in Spanish) in North Africa about 2 million years ago. The Egyptians liked it very much. From Africa it came to Spain with the Muslim conquest. The beverage made in Horta Nord, a region in Valencia, earned international recognition. It even has its own Designation of Origin, whose Regulatory Board comprises the municipalities of Albalat dels Sorells, Alboraya, Albuixech, Alfara del Patriarca, Almàssera, Bonrepòs i Mirambell, Burjassot, Emperador, Foios, Godella, Massalfassar, Meliana, Moncada, Museros, Paterna, Rocafort, Tavernes Blanques, Valencia and Vinalesa.
Health benefits of horchata
Horchata is a tasty and refreshing drink, closely associated with the Mediterranean diet. Medical reports show that, in addition, it has interesting properties for your body. High in starch and amino acids, it is good for your digestive system. It also has high levels of minerals: phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron. Also, it contains oleic acid, and it helps lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
Moreover, according to a thorough study by Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the University of Valencia and the University of Chemistry and Technology (UCT), Prague, horchata has a high concentration of phospholipids and arginine, which improve cell membrane function, blood circulation and blood pressure. This means it could have a bioregenerative function.
These and other properties have led experts to consider tiger nuts as a superfood. Even NASA and the Russian space agency are interested in this tuber, due to its nutritional benefits and its ability to withstand extreme conditions.
From Spain to the world
Horchata has been wooing international markets for many years, catering to young palates in particular. Recently, the BBC came to Valencia to make a documentary about its history and properties.
Demand is growing in various countries, boosted by the craze for vegetable juices. Grouped with other vegan, organic or gluten-free beverages, horchata is now available in New York, Tokyo, London or Berlin. What is more, other tiger nut products are now being sold: oil for beauty treatments, spread to make chocolate or sweets, and so on.
Drinking horchata… in Valencia
In the province of Valencia, you can try different kinds of horchata: natural, pasteurised, sterilised, UHT, etc. (source: DO Regulatory Board). Most producers use a mix of traditional and modern techniques, in compliance with sustainability and environmental protection standards.
Valencia is the right place to have a glass of horchata. The town of Alboraya is famous for it. It even has an Horchata and Tiger Nut Museum, and you can follow the Horchata Tour! Walking or cycling tours are available across the Horta region, and there are lots of special activities on Horchata Day, in July.
Horchata de chufa is a drink with a very long history, in the process of reinventing itself in the form of ice-cream, beer and other by-products. According to the Valencia Farmers’ Association (AVA-ASAJA), tiger nuts are among the crops with the brightest prospects in the region.