Horchata de chufa or Orxata (in Valencian) is an unmissable ice-cold treat in Valencia. Cafés that specialise in serving it (Horchaterías) are everywhere, but we head straight for one of the oldest and best-known in town, the Horchatería de Santa Catalina.
It’s bustling, and prettily-tiled in a traditional style. Eventually we bag a seat, and order the sugary beverage that stems from Moorish times. Legend has it that Jaume I named it in the Valencian vernacular when handed the drink by an Arab girl. He thanked her with the words, “Aixó es or, xata.” (“This is gold, girl.”).
Chufas (tiger nuts – a misnomer since they are actually small tubers) are the key ingredient – they grow well in Valencian soil. Soaked first in water, they are then ground, blended with water, and sweetened with a fair bit of sugar to produce the cloudy creamy liquid.
We also order a fartón (no sniggering – the stress is on the second syllable) – a thin finger of cake which is typically eaten with horchata, and watch others dunk it into their drinks before doing the same.
Horchata is sweet – too sweet for me, but No. 3 is happy to finish it all up.
To discover the very best horchata you need to go to its historic home of Alboraya, once a village, but now part of Valencia’s northern suburbs.
But if you are content to stick to the city centre, you can find Horchatería de Santa Catalina right here:
P.S. Horchata in Valencia is different to the horchata found in Latin America – there it is made from rice, barley, almonds or sesame seeds.