Located on Spain’s east coast with the Mediterranean sea lapping at its shores, Valencia’s beaches, green spaces and old city squares are just the ticket for soaking up the warm sunshine and taking in this vibrant city. And whilst you’re in the city, there is a Valencian dish that is the perfect pick-me-up for a busy day of enjoying the sights. It’s Horchata and Fartons: a refreshing milky drink enjoyed with a sweet bread.
I actually first tried Horchata (or Orxata in Catalan) in Mexico. I soon learned that the drink is fairly widespread in Latin America. What I also learned is that there are different versions of it – and what you get likely depends on the country you’re in. Essentially, it’s a milk-based drink but not using milk from an animal. So vegans and those who are lactose intolerant can enjoy it too! The one I tried in Mexico was made with rice. Other versions I’ve heard of use almonds or sesame seeds. But there’s probably lots more! In Valencia, horchata is made with tigernuts.
Tigernuts (or Chufa)
Locally, tigernuts are called chufa. And just as they have nothing to do with tigers, they also have nothing to do with nuts. Tigernuts are actually the tubers which can be harvested from a grass-like plant. This plant grows really well in the Valencian region and has been grown here ever since it was brought over by the Arabs during the period of rule by Moorish kings. So it really is quite particular to the region. Indeed, the Valencian tigernut even has its own Designation of Origin!
Some people also claim the tigernut is a superfood and it seems to be gathering support as a health food. If you’d like to know more about what you can do with them, the Tiger Nut Company has some recipes.
Horchata: Milk of Gold
To make horchata, tigernuts are soaked in water before being blended with water and sugar. Some producers will also add cinnamon or vanilla for additional flavour . Served cold, it’s sweet, refreshing and although it has a milky but ever so slightly powdery texture to it, it’s lighter than you’d expect of a glass of milk.
Horchata has been a drink of choice for Valencians for centuries. There’s even a legend behind it… The legend goes that on a visit by the King of Catalunya and Aragon, he was offered a drink of Leche de Chufa (or chufa milk as it was more simply known then) by a young girl. He’d enjoyed it so much that he told the girl ‘Aixo no es llet, aixo es or, xata!’, which basically means ‘this isn’t milk, it’s gold, cutie’… Tha xata reference is just a sweet endearment for a child. But this along with the reference to ‘or’ for gold is what stuck and where, according to legend, the drink got its name from.
And then there’s the fartons for dipping
Don’t worry, we haven’t forgetting the fartons! For english speakers who love a cheap laugh (like me), fartons is a bit of an unfortunate name… In reality, however, they are a sweet and light, fluffy bread that reminds me a lot of an iced bun. It’s just longer! A farton is what you would typically find being dipped into a glass of horchata before being eaten. You can see our fartons before we dipped and polished them off in the top picture.
In Valencia, horchata and fartons go hand in hand like churros and hot chocolate, chocolate digestives and coffee, and Posh and Becks. They are also just fantastic for dipping as they soak up the milky goodness of the horchata. A winning combination, horchata and fartons is a great pick-me-up during a day of sightseeing. And it’s a must-try whilst you’re in the city!
Where to try it: Horchaterias
You can find horchata throughout the Valencian region at ‘horchaterias’, which are cafés specialising in the drink. One of the big horchata producers, Món Orxata, even have mobile carts that sell the drink around Valencia’s city streets too. They have a farm and factory and do tours so if you’re curious to see how it’s made, it’s worth looking into. You can find out more by visiting: www.monorxata.com.
We had ours at Horchateria La Huertana, which is located in the central market (which is another must-do on your Valencia trip). A glass of horchata and a farton here was €1.80.
A perfect summer drink and not all that bad in the cold rain either
Because it’s served cold, it makes drinking it in the warm sunshine time well spent. On my recent visit, it was a rather drizzly and cool February. However, a horchata and farton were the perfect treat after a morning stroll around the city centre and Valencia’s spectacular central market.
More from Valencia
As a city break, Valencia has plenty on offer to ensure a jam-packed long weekend. You can see more of our highlights from our blog on Valencia. And if you need to book a car hire from here, visit our Valencia Airport page.