Horchata de chufa is a very popular, refreshing drink consumed in Spain during the hot summer months. It is made from the tubers of the nutsedge plant, which in Spanish is called chufa, hence the name horchata de chufa. Found in moist soils, the nutsedge plant is grasslike in appearance. Its tubers are sweet and nutty in flavor and are used to make horchata; they are also ground up into a flour and used for baking.
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.
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.
Horchata is available mainly in Spain—in restaurants, cafes, and supermarkets. 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.
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, an online specialty store selling Spanish foods and cookware.
When storing horchata, it does not need to be refrigerated; however, since it is served ice cold the beverage 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 are actually a healthy food. They are high in antioxidants and are a great source of fiber, and work as a prebiotic as well as an antibacterial. Tiger nuts, as they are commonly known, can also help to lower bad cholesterol, control diabetes, and improve a male's sex life.