Horchata is a very popular, refreshing drink consumed in Spain during the hot summers. It is made from the tubers of the nutsedge plant, which in Spanish is called chufa, hence the name horchata de chufa. Horchata (also called horchata Valencia) has a white, milky appearance and is served ice cold.
Horchata de chufa is easily confused with the Mexican drink horchata; however, that cold beverage is made with rice instead of chufa.
What is Chufa?
Chufa has several names in English, including “earth almond” and “tiger nut.” Chufa was introduced by the Moors and is primarily grown in the Community of Valencia, in eastern Spain. The chufa is a brown tuber that comes from the root of the nutsedge plant, or Cyperus esculentus. It is sweet and starchy and tastes very much like almonds or hazelnuts.
In order to make the horchata, chufas must be harvested, cleaned and slowly dried over a three-month period. They are then ground, releasing the milky juice, and mixed with water, sugar and sometimes lemon juice before going through a filter process to become horchata. This refreshing drink has a similar consistency to soy or almond milk, but a taste all its own.
Availability of Horchata
From mid-March through summer's end, Valencians of all ages enjoy horchata and are often spotted outside an horchateria cooling off with this refreshing drink. It is also popular in Andalucia and Murcia.
Horchata is available mainly in Spain—in restaurants, cafes, and supermarkets. There are several brands of commercially-produced horchata, which may be sold pasteurized, sterilized or in powder form. The most common form is pasteurized bottles found in grocery stores. If a trip to Spain is not in the foreseeable future, you can also find horchata for sale online at La Tienda--The Best of Spain.
Horchata does not need to be refrigerated; however, since it is served ice cold it needs to be chilled well in advance. It can also be placed in the freezer until partially frozen for a truly refreshing icy drink. Horchata should be shaken well before drinking and consumed within three days of opening.
It is often served with a long, thin bun called a farton, which is dipped into the cold, milky drink. There is also a version called a "Cubano," where a scoop of chocolate ice cream is dropped into the glass. Others mix their horchata with a hint of cinnamon, coffee or lemon.
Chufas, or tiger nuts, are actually a healthy food according to the Regulating Council of Denomination of Origin "Chufa de Valencia." They are high in unsaturated fatty acids and are good for skin and hair. Tiger nuts are about 25 percent fat, 30 percent starch, and 7 percent protein and are rich in fiber to boot.