Horchata de chufas is a traditional drink from the Valencian region, quite similar to almond milk or other vegan milks, but with a very distinctive, refreshing nutty flavour with a hint of aniseed. Though chufas are called “earth almond” and “tiger nut” in English, there are actually not a nut but a tuber, just like our well-known potatoes but much smaller.
The are several brands of commercially-produced horchata, which you can find in supermarkets and cafes in Valencia, but it has nothing to do with the real thing served in traditional horchaterias where you can enjoy your drink accompanied by a ‘farton’ (not kidding) , a foot long donut-like pastry to dunk in.
There are 2 renowned horchaterias in Valencia, Horchateria de Santa Catalina and Horchateria El Siglo, oddly situated right in front of each other in the city center on Plaza de Santa Catalina. We tried them both in one afternoon, while it was pouring rain outside.
Both are lovely tea rooms covered in painted tiles that make you feel like you have somehow been transported to a different century. So if you go for the atmosphere, you will find them very similar.
El Siglo has the advantage of having a little terrace where you can enjoy your drinks in the summer, but as I said, it was raining that day, so we stuck to the tea room.
With regards to the horchatas themselves, well..both were delicious! So wherever you go, you cannot go wrong. I had a slight preference for the lend at Santa Catelina which I found a bit less sweet… but that is just me. You might want to give it several tries before you decide on your favorite!
Of course I could not resist and I bought myself a big bag of chufas to have a go at the recipe myself. You’ll see the result and my homemade horchata recipe in the next post!